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Jennings County School Corporation To Begin Datacasting In January

To access this service, students will need a computer, antenna, and receiver.

(Jennings County, Ind.) – As Indiana schools prepare to continue e-learning in 2021 to protect against the spread of COVID-19, more than 84,000 Hoosier students still do not have access to the internet in their homes.

Some schools and organizations are working to install temporary hotspots to close this learning gap, but the Indiana Public Broadcast Stations (IPBS) is working on cheaper and perhaps better alternatives.

Currently, IPBS stations are beaming television signals into nearly every home in Indiana. Using those same signals, stations can also “datacast” specific and targeted educational materials from teachers into homes.

Locally, Jennings County School Corporation will use the option beginning in January, which will make Indiana only the second state in the until to teach via datacasting.

“Every child deserves equal access to learning,” said Mark Newman, the IPBS executive director, who is coordinating the effort and secured $6.73 million in grants to begin it. “We’ve seen kids having to depend on hotspots delivered by school buses, to sit in parking lots to grab a public signal, or resort to paper packets from their teachers just to do their homework.”

 Newman is working now to provide datacasting to other schools with similar levels of students that have difficulty accessing online education. At present funding levels, IPBS can help about 8,200 households.

“Datacasting will enable us to bring our classrooms to about 1,200 students who don’t have Internet access in their homes,” said Teresa Brown, superintendent of the Jennings County School Corporation.  “It’s a sustainable, cost-effective solution to enable remote learning in the areas of our county where internet connections have always been a challenge. It’s going to be incredibly helpful as we work through this pandemic.”

Datacasting is more reliable and cheaper than installing hotspots to deliver an Internet signal.

To access this service, students will need a computer, antenna, and receiver. Data is viewed via an Internet browser that stimulates the online experience. The datacasting signal enters the home over the air and goes to the student’s computer.

This service is free of charge to the user, with a low-entry setup mitigating many of the complicated scenarios and costs required to bring traditional broadband or Wi-Fi service into a home.

IPBS expects other schools will follow Jennings County’s lead and is reaching out to district superintendents to apprise them of the opportunity. Future applications could involve public safety, telemedicine, and workforce training for adults. IPBS stations are working with SpectraRep, a leading provider of datacasting solutions, to stand up the system.

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