Small Firm to Deliver News to Desktop

WASHINGTON (06/08/2000) - A small, Northern Virginia-based company is preparing to offer agencies a satellite-based service that beams programming such as C-SPAN and CNN into a corner of employees' computer screens, enabling them to monitor events without sacrificing computer performance.

Marshall Communications, Sterling, Virginia, could start offering the service by October, according to its president and chief executive officer, Sonny Marshall, speaking at a workshop of the Federal Wireless Users' Forum in New Orleans this week.

"I would really see this as a benefit, especially for FEMA, monitoring what's going on in the world, in the country," said Paulette Gemmer, program manager for the General Services Administration's federal wireless telecommunications service.

Gemmer said workers at many agencies follow legislative proceedings broadcast by C-SPAN and national and world events covered by CNN.

Marshall said his company is working out a contract with CNN. But other news services also could be included in the package, including Bloomberg Business Wire, according to Roland Waddell, a spokesman for the company.

"I can see other vertical news services that would [align] with certain agencies," he said, such as broadcast services devoted exclusively to law enforcement and legal affairs.

An agency would receive the service via a 1-meter satellite dish, which would pick up a signal sent in four streams at 384 kilobits/sec. A distribution box would then send the signal throughout the building to designated desktop computers. The software to receive the signal would be downloaded off the Internet for free.

The cost of the service would be US$4 to $4.50 per seat but could be reduced with volume discounts, Marshall said.

The video feed would take up less than a quarter of a screen, Marshall said.

The idea is to give the employees access to the news while they work and not to turn their computers into TV screens. Marshall said it makes good sense for agencies to receive the broadcasts in this way. Such news feeds are available via the Web, but Webcasts slow overall computer function.

Marshall Communications, formerly Marshall Associates Inc. is a small, minority-owned business. In February, Marshall picked up a broadband distance-learning contract from GSA's Federal Technology Service to provide commercial fixed, mobile and broadcast satellite services, multimedia networking services and equipment to federal agencies.

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