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Applications drive ISDN technology at Appalachian State.

At Appalachian State Univerin the mountains of western North Carolina, ISDN was clearly the best choice when the university rolled out a distance learning project.

"The applications drove the technology," says Jim Strom, vice chancellor at the school that turns out 25% of North Carolina's teachers and 13% of its school administrators.

"We are in a sparsely populated rural area and we selected ISDN over the existing copper after looking at the applications and what technology could be used."

The terrain and cost considerations ruled out satellite, microwave, fiber and broadband cable. So a year ago, Appalachian State began its distance learning and video effort via ISDN.

Four locations are involved--the university and the high school and two elementary schools in the Boone school district. The university has four ISDN lines and each other site has three. Each line costs $27 a month.

One of those lines in each case is dedicated to the videoconferencing equipment, with video and audio running over the 128 kb/s provided by the two B channels. Another line is dedicated to multimedia graphics often used concurrently with the video to illustrate concepts being taught.

The third line interconnects local area networks at each site. Each site has a LAN with file servers networked with the university's broad-band system. That gives each connected site the ability to access university resources and send and receive electronic mail.

Besides the distance learning application, the university also uses point-to-point videoconferencing for meetings between student teachers from Appalachian State and their counselors at the university. The distance involved may be only nine miles, but it still represents a savings in travel time.

Strom is pleased with the project and wants to expand it, but like other managers has to worry about the bottom line.

"As soon as we can find the resources, either through grants or donations or other funding, we will expand out to six counties that we have a public school partnership with. There are also four community colleges in that six-county area, and we have talked to them about joint teaching, adult literacy and student application transfers."

Strom would also like to expand the video to multipoint, with a central office-based multipoint control unit. He has been assured that BellSouth is working on that.

TRIP '92 reflections

Strom took time out to talk to Communications News while he was visiting TRIP '92, the Transcontinental ISDN Project. That November gathering was an impressive event. Its "Golden Splice--the first National ISDN-1 phone call and video connection--went off almost flawlessly.

The exhibit area at TRIP was packed at all times, and the hottest thing there was videoconferencing.

Carol Knauff of AT&T observed that video will be the driver for ISDN. With video compression improving all the time, she's probably right. In a couple of years, when ISDN is nearly everywhere, you can expect that the quality at a 128 kb/s transmission rate will be much better than today. Jake Jacobson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in California was one of the Golden Splice call participants, hooked into TRIP '92 headquarters in Reston, Va., via an ISDN video link. He provided a new and refreshingly positive interpretation of what the letters ISDN stand for when he observed:

"Yesterday the public network did not send data efficiently. It Sure Does Now!"

Irwin Dorros of Bellcore declared that TRIP '92 signaled that "the obstacles that have hindered ISDN" have been overcome. He predicted more than half of the 130 million access lines in the U.S. would be ISDN-capable by the end of 1994.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:integrated services digital network
Author:Tanzillo, Kevin
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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