Broadcasting to Computers

Datacast FAQ

(Q) What is DTV datacasting?
(A) Content files are disassembled into digital bits and embedded in available space in the Wisconsin Public Televison (WPT) Digital Television (DTV) signal. The datacasting bits are reassembled into content files at the datacast receiver.

(Q) Why do we need datacasting when we can already request content over the Internet?
(A) With the Internet, there is an individual point-to-point connection between the web server and each computer that has requested content. With datacasting, there is a single point-to-multipoint connection between the datacast server and every datacast receiver eligible to receive content.

(Q) How does datacasting work?
(A) The new DTV signal uses digital compression to carry video and audio data more efficiently than the analog signal we're accustomed to. This efficiency enables us to insert data into the DTV signal, as well as audio and video. When DTV is used to carry data, it is called DTV datacasting. There are two types of DTV datacasting: dedicated bandwidth and opportunistic bandwidth. Dedicated bandwidth sets the encoding levels for audio and video such that there will always be a certain amount of space leftover within the DTV signal for data. With opportunistic datacasting, bits of data are packed into the unused portion of the DTV signal, filling space that would otherwise go unused.

(Q) Can I get the DTV datacasting signal through my cable or satellite television provider?
(A) No, DTV datacasting is only available in the over-the-air WPT DTV signal that is transmitted from DTV broadcast towers. You will need a TV antenna to pick up the DTV signal, including DTV datacasting.

(Q) How do I pick up the WPT DTV datacasting signal?
(A) Point a UHF antenna at the nearest WPT DTV tower. For best results, use an outdoor antenna installed at a high elevation. Feed the output of the TV antenna to a datacast receiver.

(Q) What do I need to set up a datacast receive site?
(A) Here are the items you need to set up a datacast receive site:

  • Compass for pointing antenna at WPT DTV tower
  • Outdoor UHF Antenna: (Please refer to for antenna recommendations for your site.)
  • Tripod or other mount for Outdoor UHF antenna aimed at WPT DTV tower
  • Grounding connector on outdoor UHF antenna
  • Grounding wire
  • Ground rod
  • RG-6 Coaxial cable running between outdoor UHF antenna and input to tower computer (Please respect your site's requirements for plenum cable and appropriate cable paths.)
  • Threaded F-Connectors
  • Coaxial Cable Crimp Tool
  • Outdoor cable ties (as needed for your site)
  • Indoor cable ties or Velcro wraps (as needed for your site)
  • Administrative installation privileges on a Windows XP or 2000 Operating System
  • Dedicated Windows 2000/XP Tower that can run 24x7x365 (minimum specs: 1.4 GHz Pentium IV Processor, 512 MB or greater RAM, 100 GB or greater installed hard drive storage or network drive with 100 GB of hard drive storage or Ethernet access to a 100 GB network shared drive, and an empty Standard Full-Size 5.0 Volt PCI or 3.3 Volt PCI-X slot.)
  • BBTI Airstar-HD5000-PCI (5 Volt) or Airstar-HD5000-PCI-X (3.3 Volt) card*
    * Please note that cPCI-compatible datacast receive cards for small form factor computers are not available. The BBTI Airstar-HD5000-USB2 brick may be a suitable alternative.
  • Ethernet cable
  • Network connection
  • Datacast installation software from ECB (latest version information available at

(Q) I am able to tune the over-the-air WPT DTV signal using an antenna and a DTV tuner set top box. Can I receive WPT DTV datacasting?
(A) Any location that can receive an over-the-air WPT DTV signal should be able to receive the WPT DTV datacasting signal. To determine the likelihood of being able to receive WPT DTV at your location and to get an antenna recommendation, check your address at Link to external site.

(Q) What are some obstacles to receiving the WPT DTV signal?
(A) Tall buildings close by, nearby hard flat surfaces that reflect the signal, being located in a valley or at a lower elevation than surrounding areas, tree foliage, bluffs, or being located too great of a distance from the nearest WPT DTV transmission tower.

(Q) I teach in the Milwaukee area. Can my school receive WPT DTV datacasting?
(A) No, the WPT DTV datacasting signal is not currently available in Milwaukee.

(Q) We live in Superior, Wisconsin. Can we get the WPT DTV datacast signal?
(A) The WPT DTV datacast signal is not available in the Superior area at this time.

(Q) What types of files are datacast?
(A) Datacast content may include captioned Windows Media Player and QuickTime versions of instructional television shows, teacher guides, episode descriptions, interactive learning modules, distance education courses, lectures, PowerPoint presentations, and other materials.

(Q) Where can I get updates on WPT DTV datacasting specific to K - 12 Schools?
(A) Information is available on the "K-12 School Datacasting" page at or by emailing

(Q) How will I access datacast content once it arrives at my receiver?
(A) You can access the material directly on the datacast receiver computer. Many users access the datacast content by connecting over a computer network to the location where the datacast receiver saves the datacast content. A 100 Mbps or Gigabit Ethernet network is recommended for an optimum user experience.

(Q) How is datacast content typically used?
(A) Content may be viewed on an individual computer or on a digital projector or large monitor with a computer graphics adapter input for group settings.

(Q) For K - 12 schools, how is DTV datacasting different than watching an ECB instructional show that is broadcast on a WPT analog or DTV channel?
(A) Shows that are broadcast on WPT can be received and displayed on a TV display by anyone with an analog television or DTV television tuner. Broadcast television shows can be recorded on a VHS VCR, DVD recorder, or Digital Video Recorder (DVR).

DTV datacast content cannot be received by an analog TV or DTV tuner. Datacasting is received by a special datacast receive card that connects to a computer. Datacast files are saved to a hard drive. Datacast content, which can be a television show or other material, can be viewed on a computer or other display capable of displaying a computer video output.

(Q) Is datacast content close captioned?
(A) Captions are available as a playback option for many of the K-12 School instructional television shows that we datacast.

(Q) When viewing received datacast content accessed over a network, which operating systems and media players do you recommend for an optimum datacast viewing experience after the content has been received on a Windows 2000 or XP datacast receiver?
(A) Windows 2000 or XP operating system. We recommend that you use the latest versions of and updates for Windows Media Player and QuickTime for Windows.

Macintosh OS X, Panther, or Tiger operating system. We recommend that you use the latest versions of and updates for QuickTime and Windows Media Player for Macintosh.

(Q) What type of PCI slot is compatible with the datacast receive card supported by DatacastWisconsin?
(A) The older PCI datacast receive card requires a standard 5.0 Volt PCI slot. The newer PCI-X datacast receive card can fit a 3.3 Volt PCI-X slot. Compact PCI (cPCI) for the small form factor computer is not supported.

(Q) Are there any full size computers known to be incompatible with the BBTI datacast receive PCI card?
(A) We have received reports from a few datacast receive sites that the BBTI datacast receive PCI card is incompatible with Dell Optiplex 270. One strategy for dealing with this problem is to disable the datacast NIC before logging on to the Network, log on to the Network, and then re-enable the datacast NIC after logging on. However, it may be best to avoid installing a datacast receiver on a Dell Optiplex 270.

(Q) How can I be certain that I have the latest version of datacast instructions, applications, and information?
(A) Please refer to the Technical Information page at to download the latest instructions and software. The current distribution of datacast instructions are "DatacastWisconsin_Site_Set_Up_Instructions_Feb_2007_New_Site.pdf" for new sites and "DatacastWisconsin_Site_Set_Up_Instructions_Feb_2007_Upgrade.pdf" for existing sites. The latest version of datacast applications is packaged as "Triveni_Install". Once installed, the Datacast Hardware application is version 4.4.0 and the DataReceiver application is Version 4.0.0 (Build 734).

(Q) How can I access the DatacastWisconsin instructions and applications?
(A) Please refer to the Technical Information page at to download the latest instructions and software. For technical support, please contact with your name, location, and interest in datacasting.

(Q) Once I've installed the datacast applications and registered my datacast receive site, how can I be certain that my registration was successful?
(A) If you have successfully registered your datacast receive site, your datacast receiver will display a file called, "Welcome, Registered Targeted Datacast Receivers."

(Q) How can I register my datacast receive site?
(A) Please contact with your name, location, receiver ID, and interest in datacasting.

(Q) Would an old ITFS antenna work for datacasting?
(A) ITFS is sent at various microwave frequencies. Datacast is sent at various UHF frequencies. The ITFS antenna may work passably in close proximity to the broadcast transmit antenna, but with rain, snow or even an approaching weather front, the ITFS antenna would not provide useful signal strength. If the goal is to preserve the existing ITFS equipment, it would be best to hold on to the existing ITFS antenna mount and cable, but to replace the ITFS antenna with a UHF antenna. The ITFS antenna could also be left on the mast but lowered and secured out of the way.

This information is provided as a public service. We do not endorse any brand names or vendors

Wisconsin Public Television    Educational Communications Board    UW_Extension
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