Indiana Public Broadcasters Fund $6.7M Toward Datacasting for E-Learning

remote learning
(Image credit: iStock/AndreyPopov)

INDIANAPOLIS—Students across the country are learning remotely as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage. To support these efforts, Indiana has put $6.73 million in grants to the development and deployment of datacasting technology to help deliver educational content using TV signals.

APTS previously urged the FCC to recognize the role datacasting could play in supporting remote educational efforts, citing Indiana, as well as Pennsylvania and South Carolina, as states that have been using datacasting during the pandemic, which is particularly helpful for those who do not have reliable access to the internet.

Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations has reportedly raised the $6.73 million in grants and has the intention of doing a pilot datacasting program in January with Jennings County schools. Mark Newman, IPBS executive director, is coordinating the effort.

Newman is also working to provide datacasting services to other schools throughout the state. According to Newman, 84,000 students in Indiana do not have adequate internet access. He says the current level of funding can help about 8,200 households.

IPBS stations currently send broadcast signals to about 95% of the state to deliver public TV programming. It says that part of that signal can be used to send data with school curriculum, including images, videos and html files, into homes to power laptops, smart phones and tablets. To access the content, students would need a computer, antenna and receiver, with data viewed through an internet browser.

In addition to its ability to serve students without reliable internet, Newman says that datacasting is cheaper than deploying internet hotspots. It is estimated that the annual cost of datacasting for all IPBS stations would be $205,000, enabling data transfer from participating schools within their singla range. In comparison, IPBS says that a school district could spend at least $20,000 per month for a hotspot service, with an increasing fee based on the number of users.

“PBS began as educational television,” Newman said. “You might say we’re using technology to get back to our roots.”