TREASURE ISLAND – At a recent City Commission meeting, City Manager Reid Silverboard informed the commission he would look into the possibility of streaming video of future commission meetings online.
If the city goes through with the proposal, citizens would be able to visit the city’s Web site, www.MyTreasureIsland.org and watch the commission meetings at their own convenience.
The subject came up because Bright House Networks late last year moved the city’s channel to 615, on which the meetings and other community events were broadcast. The change from the lowest cable tier or package available to a higher tier requires customers to have a digital cable box which also costs more money for the consumer.
Despite the fact the cable TV company offered to allow residents with limited budgets to have the digital conversion box for $1 a month, it was a proposal Silverboard thought may be prudent.
But Mark Santos, the city’s director of information technology, noted the city already has the technology but the streaming is only used for city staff. The reason is bandwidth.
“The technology is easy, we have it today,” Santos said.
Streaming video eats up a lot of bandwidth. Bandwidth costs money. The more bandwidth is used, the more it costs the city. Most Web sites, such as the one the city uses, have limits placed upon it by the Internet service provider or ISP. If too much bandwidth is used, it can overwhelm or shut down the Web page as it has exceeded its bandwidth limits.
Currently, the Web site and network is used by both police and fire and is needed 24 hours a day. A lock up of the Web site could, though indirectly, put the safety of residents in harm’s way.
To stream the video properly it would cost the city roughly $4,000 for startup fees and anywhere from $400 to $600 a month thereafter, Santos said.
Santos said that sooner or later, the city will likely stream video. More and more costs for such features decreases. Additionally, more and more municipalities are streaming video, including the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners.
One positive aspect for both the city and citizens would be the digitalization. Viewers could click on a subject they are more interested in, say downtown redevelopment or the beach trail, and skip a subject less flashy such as updating the sewer system. The digitalization would help city employees with archival filing and research.
There are still ways to upload video of the commission meetings to the Internet but are not desirable, Santos said. For example, the city could upload the video to YouTube.com and embed the videos or even link the videos from the city Web site. But there are two reasons that won’t happen.
The first would be the manpower it would take to edit the raw video. YouTube.com limits videos to 10 minutes each. So a meeting that would take three hours would have to be edited to 18 different 10-minute videos which could take well over a day to edit. Santos hinted that in some cases, uploading video to YouTube.com would take two hours of work for every hour of video.
The second reason the YouTube.com option is not likely is the quality of the video is not the standard the city would like.