Two-way IPTV broadcast celebrates Earth Day

A Virginia company plans the largest ever two-way IPTV event for Earth Day.

A US telecommunications company has teamed up with the Earth Day Network to offer what they believe will be the largest two-way IPTV (Internet Protocol television) event ever attempted.

On Friday, the Earth Day Network and Communications Technology (ComTek) will offer a live, two-way IPTV broadcast to about 16,000 high school and college classrooms across the US. Using ComTek's PowerTV network, students will be able to view the broadcast through a Web browser and ask questions by e-mail.

Friday is Earth Day, the environmental observance started in 1970.

ComTek's IPTV offering combines the power of live television, PCs and the World Wide Web, said Joseph Fergus, the company's president and chief executive officer. "IPTV converges three of the most powerful and pervasive communications in the history of humankind," said Fergus, a former senior scientist at Bell Labs.

While participants in the Earth Day event will ask questions of environmental experts and religious leaders by e-mail, PowerTV also allows two-way communication by VOIP (voice over IP), he said during a press conference Tuesday. "There is an ability to interact with the Web, including voice over IP, in a way that's never been done before, with a sort of clarity that didn't exist before," Fergus said.

IPTV can be live or prerecorded and broadcast at any time with DVD quality, according to ComTek.

With PowerTV, viewer experience can be interactive, unlike over-the-air or cable television broadcasting, the company said.

The ability of users to view PowerTV broadcasts in Web browsers was attractive to the Earth Day Network, said Jeff Nesbit, the group's vice president of communications. "None of these classrooms need to sign up for Web conferencing," he said. "None of them have to do anything other than simply utilize their Web connection."

ComTek has spent US$11 million to develop its PowerTV service over a three-year period, the company said. It is distributed over ComTek's private IP network that integrates fiber, wireless, broadband-over-power-lines and satellite broadband.

The "national town hall meeting," broadcast from Washington, D.C., will include nine speakers, including a group of environmental scientists. A second panel of religious leaders talking about the environment will follow the scientists.

The broadcast happen from 1 to 3 p.m. EST Friday at http://www.earthdaynetwork.tv. The broadcast is free to view.

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