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Council meetings to stream on Web

Starting as early as next month, anyone with a high-speed Internet connection can watch Suffolk City Council meetings right at their computer.

The new program, administered by third-party Granicus, also will provide archived videos of City Council meetings and other programs online, available for viewing at any time.

“Currently, only those citizens with local cable or who attend the meetings are able to see the meetings live,” said Debbie George, city spokeswoman. “This will open the meetings to everyone with Internet access.”

The city spent about $12,500 getting the program up and running. The monthly cost will be $928. All the money spent so far came from the cable fund, George said.

The service will offer live streaming of City Council meetings, as well as archived video of all prior meetings. The archived videos will be separated into sections by a flip of the city clerk’s switch as the meeting is happening. People who want to see only one agenda item, for example, will be able to click on that item under the online video and jump directly to that point. Viewers can see the agenda outline, as well as the video, or can make the video full-screen.

The archives also will be searchable, George said. For example, a viewer who wants to see all hearings on the 2010 budget would be able to search the word “budget” and bring up a list of the video segments related to the city’s spending plan. In addition, the videos will be cross-referenced with public documents available on the Web.

“The archiving system will allow citizens to access meetings at a time that is convenient for them,” George said. “This service will further allow those who want to be informed and involved opportunities that were previously unavailable to them.”

The live streaming and archives will be hosted on an off-site server, George said, so that hundreds of viewers can access them at once and not interfere with the city’s internal servers. A link to the videos will be placed on the city’s Web site in the near future, she said.

The service will start out with City Council meetings, but the city hopes to expand the video offerings to other public meetings, city events and even emergency response briefings, George said.

All that will be required to access the videos is a media player, such as Windows Media Player, which is standard on many PCs, or the free Silverlight download.

The new system is anticipated to “go live” with the July 1 City Council meeting.