By Steve Hansen
Staff writer 

Station joining state-wide tech test


Last updated 11/23/2021 at 4:54pm

PORTALES — A local public television station is joining a state-wide test of technology that may allow television broadcast signals to partially substitute for broadband internet in rural areas that lack broadband service.

The technology is called datacasting, and it’s nearly as old as television itself but only recently has been applied to distance education, according to Franz Joachim, general manager and chief executive officer of the New Mexico Public Broadcasting System and KNME-TV.

Duane Ryan, chief executive officer for the KENW television station on the campus of Eastern New Mexico University, said KENW will participate in tests of datacasting for distance learning. However, he is not yet certain where in KENW’s service area the first test will be conducted.

“We are in the process of getting the equipment,” Ryan said. The equipment includes a device about the size of a deck of cards that combine antennas, receivers and wi-fi devices. The devices are given to participating families for receiving class materials including video, photos and documents.

Ryan said the Hondo Valley School District, located near Ruidoso, was under consideration as a first test market in KENW’s area, but Joachim said the mountainous area is not a likely candidate.

“There are parts of the Hondo Valley that do not get television reception at all,” Joachim said.

For some rural students currently without broadband internet service, datacasting may offer an efficient way to receive class materials, assignments and lectures.

“It means that parents don’t have to drive for an hour just to pick up materials,” Joachim said.

School districts in Bernalillo, Cuba, Pojoaque, Silver City and Taos are host communities for early tests of datacasting for education in the state, Joachim said,

Joachim said datacasting’s best known application is closed-captioning, which allows viewers the option of seeing spoken dialogue printed out on screen, but it has also been used over the years for public safety applications.

In addition, Joachim said, electric clocks have long been kept accurate through datacasting technology.

In datacasting for education, Joachim said, data is transmitted along with other broadcast signals, but the receivers given to families decode classroom materials out of the mix, and convert it back into teaching and learning materials.

There is much educational programming material available that readily converts to datacasting, and teachers will be able to produce material on their own, Joachim said.

The main drawback to datacasting is it is one way; students can receive information through datacasting but can’t datacast questions or turn in assignments. For that, Joachim said, students will have to rely on email or phones.

The statewide datacasting pilot is funded by $1 million awarded to the PED by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham from the federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, a pandemic relief measure, according to the PED news release.


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