Voice of America speaks MP3

MAY 29—The Voice of America's MP3 webcast programs are as popular in urban areas abroad as its traditional shortwave, television and AM/FM radio broadcasts are in remote areas.

By Susan M. Menke

GCN Staff


MAY 29'The Voice of America's MP3 webcast programs are as popular in urban areas abroad as its traditional shortwave, television and AM/FM radio broadcasts are in remote areas.

'Our Web site had 550,000 hits in February,' VOA media chief Tish King said. 'Not all were downloads of full programs, but we're finding that MP3 files are particularly valuable.'

The independent agency has 91 million shortwave listeners abroad who are 'looking for reliable news and information,' King said. Shortwave radio has been the mainstay because it can cover large, remote areas and is difficult for unfriendly governments to block. Urban radio and TV stations abroad download the MP3 webcast files from the Web at www.voanews.com to use in their own broadcasts.

The Voice of America uses the distributed caching network of Akamai Technologies Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., to make its programming available globally.

'We don't have the bandwidth or the resources to host this much content for streaming,' King said. When a user types in the Voice of America's uniform resource locator, the agency's Domain Name System software resolves the URL to Akamai's EdgeSuite service, which in turn hands off the query to the caching server closest to the user.

The company's 10,000 servers use about 700 Internet providers' networks to withstand cyberattacks and rolling blackouts such as California is experiencing. The servers all run a modified Linux kernel. The Census Bureau and the Government Printing Office also use Akamai's facilities to cache replicated content and graphics, said Akamai federal sales manager Chris Carlston.

To view streaming-media webcasts, an end user must have a player program installed, such as Apple QuickTime, RealPlayer from RealNetworks Inc. of Seattle or Microsoft Windows Media Player. The agency Web site does not have to install or license any special hardware or software, Carlston said.

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