A Broadcast Internet Remote Learning Service Launches


In a major development heralding the possibilities for all broadcasters with the new ATSC 3.0 digital television broadcast standard, the first Broadcast Internet remote learning service has been deployed.

It is now up and running in the Nation’s Capital, and its over-the-air launch is thanks in part to a partnership with ONE Media 3.0 and Sinclair Broadcast Group.

The EduCast service’s deployment is a victory for Chantilly, Va.-based SpectraRep, and is utilizing the NEXTGENTV signal powering Sinclair’s WIAV-CD 44 in Washington, D.C.

The facility’s signal contour covers the entire National Capital Region and the Baltimore suburbs.

The deployment is the first Broadcast Internet remote learning service in the nation to utilize NextGen TV to deliver educational services that are designed to mitigate broadband access issues for students and teachers around the country.

In short, EduCast allows educators to immediately evaluate and deploy Broadcast Internet in the region for remote learning.

Broadcast Internet, also known as datacasting, uses digital television transmission infrastructure to deliver IP-based content to users within a broadcaster’s transmission footprint.

“When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country and students and teachers were sent home, we saw the negative impacts on remote learners without access to adequate broadband,” said Mark O’Brien, President and Chief Technology Officer of SpectraRep. “Issues like homework gaps and equity in education became even more acute, and we quickly realized we could help to bridge the digital divide through our technology and the enhanced advances offered by ATSC 3.0, in the same way we’ve supported public safety and law enforcement customers.”

EduCast uses a portion of the digital television capacity to deliver a secure, wireless data network that safely delivers targeted assignments, course materials and classroom
videos to students.

O’Brien says EduCast is operational and available in 12 states using the ATSC 1.0 transmission standard.

With ATSC 3.0, “we can directly support even more students faster and in a timeframe and manner that keeps them learning no matter what the new school year brings,” O’Brien says.

John McCoskey, SpectraRep’s COO, adds, “When the ATSC 3.0 standard was ratified, we knew it could dramatically improve our service offerings due to its native IP architecture, increased data capacity, and better reception characteristics. Our goal was to enhance our services to operate using both ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 transmission systems and to provide stations and end users a simple, no-cost transition from one to the other. At the station that means just configuration changes and moving a few cables. The in-home receiver we chose and have deployed already supports both transmission standards.”

In anticipation of the staggered and voluntary transition of stations from the current standard to NextGen TV ATSC 3.0, SpectraRep partnered with DigiCAP to develop an advanced in-home receiver capable of simultaneous operation using both ATSC 1.0 and 3.0 transmission.

Educators access the EduCast service using their existing Learning Management System (LMS) and tools. In a student’s home, the DigiCAP receiver connects to a simple TV antenna that is used to receive the broadcast signal and the IP content it carries.  The receiver establishes a Wi-Fi hotspot in the home that students connect to with their Chromebook, tablet, laptop, or smartphone.  The receiver stores up to 128 GBytes of educator-curated content.  This can include videos, presentation slides, worksheets, interactive documents, and images. Anything that can be saved as a file can be delivered.