Companies connect by video at college Long-distance link offered to businesses

June 12, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

One room at Carroll Community College can take you across the country for $250 an hour.

That is the price for local businesses or individuals to use the live, interactive video conferencing room. The college has been using it for two years to link up with courses taught at colleges in Baltimore County and Baltimore.

Carroll County Bank and Trust Co., the first business to use the college's technology, held meetings with a Little Rock, Ark., firm that handles the bank's data processing.

Local though they are, businesses such as Carroll County Bank and Trust still need to have meetings with out-of-town businesses, said Michael Oster, the bank's executive vice president and chief operating officer.

"I'd say it's less expensive than the time it takes to take someone out of their chair, put them on a plane and fly them out," Oster said.

Before, the bank had used conference telephone calls for meetings with businesses it deals with around the country.

"You just don't get the same flavor as when you're sitting eyeball-to-eyeball with someone," he said, even if it's eyeball to video to eyeball.

The bank also had used the college for teleconferencing, with employees hooking up to a live feed for a training session. But it was not interactive, and there was no way for them to respond to the instructor.

When Oster heard about the college's two-way video, he suggested that businesses could use it.

Business people who have been hearing, through word of mouth or through fliers the college is putting out, are responding and are ready with ways to use the technology, said Ellen Willis, director of business and industry training for Carroll Community College.

One Carroll businessman has asked to use the room for a job interview with an employer on the West Coast.

Another business, which makes roof trusses, wants to use the video system and attached computer to hold technical meetings with a business in Japan.

Oster compared the new technology and the immediate demand for it with the emergence of the facsimile machine.

Before the fax, he said, "none of us in business worried about the fact you couldn't get a piece of paper from here to there." But once the machine emerged, it was widely used.

The college invested about $6,000 in grant money to buy the equipment for the room. The main purpose was to enable students to enroll in courses not popular enough to be offered at Carroll. For example, one student was able to take a course in Japanese taught by an instructor at Catonsville Community College.

The college demonstrated the technology at the beginning of a meeting yesterday between Carroll County Bank and Trust officials and ALLTEL, the Little Rock firm.

The room has two video monitors. One displayed two account executives in Little Rock, and the other displayed the image of Room 216, which the Little Rock people were watching.

The room also has a fax machine, a computer and a high-tech version of an overhead projector. The projector allows people on both ends to view a piece of paper.

The sound and "compressed video" images travel over telephone lines with a 10-second delay. Once the school's new library is built, the college will have more sophisticated fiber-optic equipment that Bell Atlantic is providing to schools, said Joseph F. Shields, the college's president.

Pub Date: 6/12/96

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