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CONTRIBUTION · 20th October 2011
Merv Ritchie
This is a response to a question regarding the desire to live broadcast the RDKS meetings.

I have to admit, no one is better to answer this (and apologize), than myself. I had attended every single Regional District Kitimat Stikine (RDKS) meeting since June 2006. I recall a Terrace Standard reporter, Dustin, attending a few meetings way back then. This is where I first met him. When he quit the Standard no other media ever attended except on possibly 3 or 4 occasions when something spectacular was on the agenda or someone called to advise they were on a protest mission. It has been years since any other media attended these meetings regularly.

I have always argued these once monthly meetings are the best show in town. Listening to Dave Brocklebank provide the perspective from the Tahltan country or the Village of Hazelton Mayor Alice Maitland relate history of the previous five decades of the Gitxsan country . . . well I am always simply honoured to be in the presence of such great citizens.

In 2008 I began to experiment with live streaming events on our websites. It was interesting and exciting. I began to do this for the City of Terrace and the RDKS as well as the River Kings hockey games, the 2010 BC Winter games, the races at the Airport and the Terrace Speedway.

In 2010 the RDKS offered to pay me for this service as I was able to provide it without interruption and had mastered the technical difficulties. They provided their network connection and the live feed was impeccable.

During this same time the City of Terrace refused me access to their wireless password and their network connection stating they didn`t have the bandwidth. This was a silly excuse as the Provincial Emergency Program and the Fire Department is operated out of the same location.

I live streamed over the internet all the RDKS meetings through most of 2009 and 2010 but during 2011 I became so busy maintaining and expanding our services I was unable to continue the live streaming even though the RDKS was prepared to pay. I did not have a staff person to take over this responsibility.

One must be aware the RDKS meetings are held virtually all day, on one of the last Fridays of every month until quite late, sometimes 11:00 pm. Some meetings extend to continue the following Saturday morning. And further, to complicate this, during the summer months the Board takes the easy weather travel opportunity to travel to distant parts of the District to hold their monthly meeting such as Stewart, Dease Lake or the Hazeltons.

The City of Terrace set aside about $30,000 to set up their live stream system, which today appears to be working relatively well. Due to my schedule I have been watching the Terrace City council meetings at home and during the last meeting on October 10, 2011, the sound system failed and I raced down to attend and record the meeting while the opening presentations were underway.

I believe it is very important to have these meetings live streamed, all of them. Online is the new way to communicate. The School Board meetings should also be live streaming. I have done this for them as well. Board members and councillors who are away can watch online and by phone or skype, participate. Even Mayor Dave Pernarowski watched Terrace Council from the Terrace Daily live stream broadcast while he was in Prince George attending a meeting.

As an independent, without unreasonable compensation, it is too time consuming. As an organization it is a necessity. Especially in this district, the Sacred Circle, where the distances between the communities can be a full days travel.

If these systems were properly setup we would have a more effective and involved community.

As for the RDKS, I still believe it is the best show in town. The good will shared between the various directors, from all areas of the Sacred Circle, is uplifting. They show respect and admiration for each other and each offer perspectives and insight seldom seen in any political gathering.

If it was up to me, I would put two camera men on location and ensure this was always broadcast. These men and women do not get the recognition they deserve. I covered their meetings almost without exception from 2006 until this year. Rarely did I see any other media person attend to cover these important issues. And the meetings were never boring.

If elected and then appointed to the RDKS Board, I would not just encourage this measure I could instruct on how it could be done for less than half of what the City of Terrace spent. (It could be done for a tenth) And even one camera would be better than nothing.
Yes, you are correct, facts!
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 20th October 2011
Thank you for this. You took offense to my insinuation. Now we are speaking honestly.

I understand the hours. I admit, I spent dozens of hours figuring out how to do what I did.

I accept your expenses are not greater than other municipalities who have attempted the same thing. And tomorrow it will be cheaper. That is just the way technology is.

I charged the RDKS quite a bit you are correct. I needed to consider what it would cost to hire someone to do a production. This was much different than what we see at the City. Our HD camera moved to focus and zoom in on speakers, across the board table and podium and onto power point presentations. We then produced an edited DVD copy for the RDKS Board records. The camera man needed to be skilled enough and pay attention enough to the proceedings to anticipate the next speaker and the action of the room.

This is far different than a camera mounted on a ceiling.

During the time we produced this for them I assure you the total cost was not even close to the money spent by the City, without checking I estimate less than 3 g`s.

As for rereading your emails, the sound wasn't the issue. It became a secondary issue you created somehow with the cable you claimed someone thought they might trip over. That was an "out of the blue, newly fabricated issue"

Didn`t I state I already had an internet stick? That is how I was transmitting the broadcasts from day one. I was simply attempting to make the feed better. There was no technical issue. No other organization anywhere within the boundaries of the City of Terrace, except City Hall, had a problem.

BTW Council meetings are at 7:30 pm when all City staff, (most), are at home watching TV or playing with their children. You are attempting to claim that the internet connection cannot handle the single night time Council Chambers connection, when dozens of City staff have gone home.

You must see the silliness of this claim.

Anyone with an ounce of reason can see 15 staff on computers during the day vs possibly two at night during Council is a no contest.

We can agree to disagree but don't take me for a fool.
Facts
Comment by Brad on 20th October 2011
I take offense to your insinuation that we wasted money setting up this system, I put many hours in and out of work figuring out how to do this cheaply, reliably, and with very minimal resources (including a poor internet connection). Check with municipalities of like size and see how much they have spent and are continually spending to deliver this type of service.

>>I could instruct on how it could be done for less than half of what the City of Terrace spent. (It could be done for a tenth)

By the way how much did you charge RDKS to broadcast their meetings, I seem to recall seeing a price of thousands?

I re-read my emails and it just reinforced to me that I tried to explain it to you in such a way that you knew it was due to technical issues and not who you were, if anyone else asked they would have got the same email. Wait didn't I even offer to help you connect to the sound system and suggest an internet stick for your webcasts?

BTW when creating this system my recomendation was that we do not do "live" broadcasts as I could not guarantee our internet connection could maintain the throughput if someone presenting in council wanted to use TerraMap or YouTube. Isn't this basically the same reason I gave you?

As for the "My Bad", it means I screwed up. Read into it all you want.
Brad, Our email exchange - part two
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 20th October 2011
Brad W. Hansen bhansen,,,terrace.ca to me 5/15/10

I will pass your concerns about using the mic system onto Admin, but I am also currently developing a system to record our council meetings so I will be improving the existing mic system so it works properly.

As for the PEP office they have their own super duper internet connection that I’ve asked if we could share, but no such luck.

Brad Hansen
Information Systems Manager

Merv Ritchie to Brad 5/16/10
Thanks,

I wasn't thinking about the PEP offices, more the fire/911 etc but I will leave of of this for you and your team to see if you can find a way to assist delivering the meetings to the public reliably via the internet. As City West shows up only sporadically, and we are attending every Council meeting, this would be the only manner a home bound person to view the proceedings reliably.

Again,

Thanks for you help

Merv

And then over one year later we received this message.

Brad W. Hansen bhansen,,,terrace.ca to me Jul 13, 2011

Please note that the new home for City of Terrace Webcasts is;

http://www.terrace.ca/city_hall/mayor_and_council/council_videos

Or it can be reached by going to www.terrace.ca > City Hall > Mayor & Council > Council Webcasts

Live and archived videos will be available from this page.

Brad Hansen
Information Systems Manager
City of Terrace
Brad, Our email exchange - part one
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 20th October 2011
Brad W. Hansen bhansen,,,terrace.ca to me 3/10/10

Merv,

Ron asked me to forward on to you why our wifi is not available to the general public.
Attached is the email I sent to him.

Thanks

Brad Hansen

Information Systems Manager
City of Terrace

Ron.

Our internet connection at City Hall is not a very fast connection and the reason I set up wireless here is for people making presentations to council, training room, etc to have internet access.

The more users connected to our wifi risks degrading its performance especially if anyone starts using any bandwidth intensive applications such as online video, mapping, skype, etc.

Therefore I recommend that our wireless not be given out to anyone except those who absolutely need it to ensure that it remains fast and reliable for its intended purpose.

My suggestion to anyone else that needs a high speed internet connection is that they look at purchasing a high speed cellular modem from Telus or Bell.

If you have any questions, please let me know.
Brad Hansen
Information Systems Manager

(The Technical: Our wireless access is only a standard business ADSL which is actually slower than home ADSL and costs more. The next step in upgrading this connection would cost us over $1000 per month.)

Brad W. Hansen bhansen,,,terrace.ca to me 5/14/10

Merv,

Alisa had mentioned that before the last council meeting you had approached her about our wireless connection and that you had been informed that Ron P. had said you could connect to it.

I guess there was a miscommunication somewhere as that has not changed.

What we had been discussing though was that a safety concern was brought up about the mic cord that runs through the middle of the floor and it being a tripping hazard.

I was asked to see if I could figure out a better way for you to record the meetings without the need to run a cable to the front and when I looked into it we have a sound output from our recording system that runs to the back of the room that was previously used by channel 10 to broadcast our meetings. Ron had given his authorization for you to use this.

Can you tell me what kind of plug (mini headphone, headphone jack, large headphone jack, xlr) your external mic uses to plug into your camcorder and if possible the make and model of your camcorder so I can see if it is compatible or what it would take to make it so.

When I figure that out we can get together and test it to make sure it works.

Thanks

Brad Hansen
Information Systems Manager

I then contacted Councillor Dr. Bruce Bidgood for insight;

Merv Ritchie to Bruce 5/14/10

Hi Bruce, I just received this.

I had mentioned to Alisa what you told me, that you spoke to Ron about this and would try to get it worked out.

As for the concern of the mic cord this is the first I heard. I can, which I do sometimes, run duct tape over the cord each time. It works well and doesn't leave a mark on the carpet.

I do not have these problems with the School Board or the Regional District.

Thanks for you assistance.

Merv

Merv Ritchie to Brad, Bruce 5/14/10

Thanks Brad,

I had not heard about the concerns regarding the microphone cable. I can run a strip of Duct tape over the cord to alleviate this issue. The current microphones set up do not pick up the room sufficiently. Those watching at home on channel ten frequently complain about not being able to hear the proceedings. Even just the microphone on the camcorder itself is better than the microphones on the tables now.

In regards to the upload and download data volume.

On May 10, 2010 we were in full live stream mode for 3 hours and 38 minutes.

We uploaded via our telus internet stick and also downloaded the transmission to ensure the quality was correct.

The total data volume uploaded was 447.03 MB
The total data volume downloaded was 462.03 MB

It would appear the 3 1/2 hr transmission would consume about 1 GB

Your concern is the speed of the wireless, which is also a concern for us. The School Board allows the hard wire connection which is very quick of course. The Regional District KS provides their wireless which is also very quick and seems to present no problems.

The internet stick has a maximum capacity of 60 kbps which easily handles the transmission up and down.

I hope some of this information assists.

Of course a network cable would provide the best connection. Until the City is able to provide some quality connection we will need to remain on the internet stick. This is not our preference as it kicks out on a regular basis. It would seem somewhat strange your building services wouldn't have the most up to date systems and connections as the entire emergency services for the Northwest are located withing the same structure.

I'll leave all of this in your capable hands.

Thanks,

Merv
Dear Brad, the Terrace IT guy
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 20th October 2011
Thank you for your participation Brad. The following is the complete exchange of our email communications. The only thing it demonstrates is the City, through you, attempted to obfuscate and frustrate my legitimate attempt to provide a community service. Your success in live streaming is great. I am truly appreciative of this effort. However your moves and emails to frustrate our service shows a disregard to the public service.

Using the term “My Bad” is juvenile. I arrived at Terrace City Council late on October 10, 2011 and at the first opportunity I advised Alisa and staff, through the Mayor, of the problem with the audio. They then worked to resolve the problem. What is was and how it was resolved is not an issue.

Please don’t take an extra special effort to attack me and my efforts to improve the services of the City. You belittle yourself doing that.

And yes I guess I must be a better IT Guy than you and I am not even trained in the profession. I set up a mobile live stream for only $80, less the cost of the camera. A video camera can be quite cheap. However for the service you have installed, the switching, double camera and connection option for a visiting delegation, a great system I must say, it would absolutely cost more. I do not believe this could be done for less than a couple grand.

In my personal opinion your wage should compensate you for the knowledge to be able to design and purchase the components to set the system up. Not hire an outside supplier to provide the knowledge, experience and the packaged system

The next/following comment is the text of our emails. They end with your announcement of the City’s own system.

Ask yourself after you read these emails, were you attempting to help or were you attempting to hinder?
Facts
Comment by Brad Hansen - IT CityofTerrace on 20th October 2011
During this same time the City of Terrace refused me access to their wireless password and their network connection stating they didn`t have the bandwidth. This was a silly excuse as the Provincial Emergency Program and the Fire Department is operated out of the same location. "

We don't have the bandwidth, we have a basic Cable internet connection and in order to keep it reliable for City & Council purposes we don't share it. I conveyed this to you in an email at the time.
The Fire Department has no special requirements for internet.
PEP is a seperate entity than the City and its internet connection is not shared with us although we have tried to get on their uber connection.

>>The City of Terrace set aside about $30,000 to set up their live stream system....

The City of Terrace budgeted $12,000 for the streaming project and without checking my numbers I believe it was completed for around $8000.

>>...and during the last meeting on October 10, 2011, the sound system failed ...

We had an oops that when the presenter came on we used the wrong camera view which had no audio associated to it. My bad, fixed now.

>>...I could instruct on how it could be done for less than half of what the City of Terrace spent. (It could be done for a tenth)

As per above it only cost around $8000 to create a system that doesn't require us to have to pay a dedicated person (or 2) on hand to record the meeting. If you can do it for $800 your a better IT guy than me.