Technology, tradition merge in Obama ceremony

Internet2 enables live multicast of C-SPAN inauguration coverage

Several million people are expected to gather today on the National Mall in Washington to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation’s 44th president, and millions more will watch it live on TV.

But if you have to be in the office today — or if TV is too 20th century for your tastes — you might have the option of watching streaming video of the swearing-in via the Internet.

Northwestern University is providing multicast streams of live C-SPAN coverage of inaugural activities for members of the Internet2 community. IP multicasting enables distribution of multiple data streams without establishing individual connections, thereby improving quality without degrading the performance of traditional Internet connections.

Internet performance is a concern on a day that is expected to see record demands as multiple IP services are brought into play for the country’s first wireless, online administration.

Northwestern University has been providing live multicast streams of C-SPAN content via Internet2 in partnership with Video Furnace since 2000. C-SPAN, a noncommercial public service cable network that primarily covers the federal government, will provide live coverage of inaugural events beginning at 6 a.m. EST today. The swearing-in ceremony is expected to take place around noon.

A consortium of companies, universities and other organizations operates Internet2, an advanced research and education network, to provide high-performance networking and IP services. Northwestern University gets a multicast connection to the Internet2 backbone via the Metropolitan Research and Education Network, and any multicast-enabled institutions connected to Internet2 should be able to receive the university’s video streams. The streams are available for Mac OS X, Linux, Windows and Solaris clients. Details of minimum system requirements are available at the site.

You can also find out if your institution is connected to Internet2 and multicast-enabled by visiting the Internet2 Detective.

IP multicasts allow content providers to transmit a single stream of data to any number of users simultaneously without an individual connection being established for each stream. Because there is a finite capacity for individual connections, unicasting large numbers of streams can increase latency and degrade the quality of high-bandwidth applications such as streaming video.

The Internet2 network also links with a number of commercial service and content providers through its Commercial Peering service so it can provide members with unicast and multicast streams from those sources.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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