Joint Commission on Technology and Science

October 22, 1997, Richmond

Communications Networks

The third full commission meeting of the 1997 interim was a videoconferenced meeting that linked five sites throughout the Commonwealth. Five commission members were present at the meeting's primary site at the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College, with others participating from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Longwood College in Farmville, and the Halifax County/South Boston Continuing Education Center of Longwood College in South Boston. The North Run location of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond also served as a meeting site. All sites were open to the public, and about 65 people attended.

The president of TVW, a nonprofit, public affairs network for Washington State that provides unedited coverage of state government deliberations and public policy events comparable to C-SPAN's, was the main speaker. TVW's mission is to provide Washington's citizens with increased access to unbiased information about such deliberations and events through unedited television coverage. TVW is received in 2.5 million homes daily.

TVW's mission also includes a commitment to increase citizen access to state government deliberations and public policy events through relevant technologies other than television. In January 1996, with the governor's state of the state address, TVW became the first organization in the world to "broadcast" live audio of a public official over the Internet. On the World Wide Web, TVW now provides RealVideo and RealAudio archives and real-time transmission of over 3,500 hours of programming. Citizens with access to the Internet, a sound system, and free software (RealVideo or RealAudio) can listen to or watch oral argument of the Washington State Supreme Court; legislative committee and floor action; meetings of boards, commissions, and councils; press conferences; candidate debates; and other such deliberations and events. TVW estimates that it averages 500 "hits" a day on its website.

Representatives from Net.Work.Virginia explained how the network provided the videoconference connection for the meeting. Net.Work.Virginia, the Commonwealth's first high-speed, broadband communications network delivering ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) service statewide, is the result of a project led by Virginia Tech, in association with Old Dominion University and the Virginia Community College System to develop universal access to advanced digital communications services for all of Virginia. The network can carry thousands of simultaneous, two-way flows of voice, data, and video, and is based on Sprint's existing broadband fiber optic network in Virginia, with Bell Atlantic installing a new relay service technology that allows users to put voice, data, and video onto one communications line. Over 190 sites are connected to the network. Participants include four-year colleges and universities, the Virginia Community College System, private schools, several K-12 school systems, state agencies, and private industry. More information about Net.Work.Virginia can be found on the World Wide Web at

The Honorable Kenneth R. Plum, Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Diane E. Horvath