The Illinois Video
costs and increases
for governmental and
Before the inception of the Illinois Video Network (IVN), government officials in Illinois routinely traveled between Chicago and Springfield for conferences. Costs incurred for air fares, meals, lodging and ground transportation were significant. Additional time and resources were required for submitting and processing travel expense receipts.
Long distance travel was also detrimental to personal productivity. It consumed large amounts of time, both in the air and on the ground. Each traveler required time for preparation and transportation to the airport. Upon arriving at their destination, additional time was consumed traveling from the airport to a downtown hotel.
To hold costs down, only the bare minimum of people attended conferences. Each attendee would gather and carry as much pertinent material as possible. When an important piece of information was left behind, it had to be transmitted by fax. Those travelers staying overnight found hotel rooms less productive than using their own office and its resources.
Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar said, "Videoconferencing has become one of the most effective tools in governmental communication." He cited the benefits of reducing travel costs, enhancing training programs and establishing long distance educational programs.
The main benefits of videoconferencing are that it eliminates travel costs and wasted time. When a conference completes, the attendees return to their offices and resume their duties without lost travel time. Staff members are available to support the videoconference without additional transportation expenses. When a question arises that can't be immediately answered, staff personnel can resolve the issue while the conference continues. Additional materials are made easily available to the attendees without disrupting the conference.
BUILDING IN ILLINOIS
The majority of Illinois government agencies are located in Springfield and Chicago. In 1991, Illinois began constructing a video network between these two cities. By August 1995, the statewide network encompassed 37 videoconferencing sites.
All video components in the IVN system adhere to the NTSC industry standard. William Vetter, manager of the Bureau of Communications and Computer Services that oversees IVN, explained "We pressed for industry standard equipment to avoid getting locked in to a specific vendor."
The investment made in the Chicago and Springfield facilities was $250,000 per room. Each studio uses special acoustic materials, lighting and equipment similar to a TV station news room. VTEL 227 systems and MCU-II multi-point control units are the heart of the system.
A ceiling-mounted overhead camera displays documents on the desktop. This camera has sufficient resolution to zero in on a business card and completely fill the monitor screen with it. Another camera is dedicated to a wall-mounted white board. Other cameras, located behind glass, are focused on the attendees. Keeping the cameras hidden behind glass makes them less intimidating to the participants.
The VTEL control panel is user-friendly and can be operated by non-technical personnel after a few minutes of instruction. A technical support person is available for assistance, should the need arise. Camera positions are preset and switchable between full group shots, individuals and documents. An audio feed is also available for remote attendees who can't participate with video. Both point-to-point and multi-point conferences are possible with the VTEL MediaConference system.
In the Chicago facility, 250 people can view press conferences and other media announcements on a 16-foot-tall projection screen. A smaller room employs a 32-inch monitor and seats 25 comfortably. Most other conferencing sites use standard video monitors.
TimePlex hardware connects the studio rooms with the outside world. Within the IVN, transmissions are carried on quarter T-1 leased lines. AmeriTech provides these lines between the large metropolitan areas and to the Sprint Point of Presence. The 384Kbps line speed is sufficient to handle both audio