Lights, camera, action for Hutto TV

City and school district reach agreement to provide channel

An agreement between the city and school district is putting Hutto on the air.

Both Hutto City Council and the Hutto ISD board of trustees approved agreements March 21 to host a local Public Education Government, or PEG, channel. The channel will include content from both the city and the district, with programming on events, health and safety tips as well as meeting rebroadcasts. In the future, the channel could be used to broadcast live meetings, serve as an instructional tool and issue school alerts, HISD Public Information Officer Emily Grobe said.

"We realized ... if we had our own channel, it was something we could take advantage of," Grobe said. "We felt it would be just another opportunity to give our parents and our community something ... they can watch anytime."

Content from the city and district will air on Channel 10 for Time Warner Cable customers within Hutto. The Texas Utilities Code requires cable companies to provide up to two PEG channels to municipalities such as Hutto with populations less than 50,000. It does not cost a municipality to acquire a channel.

"Our hope is that by May, it'll turn over to our content," Grobe said.

Initially, the channel will be managed by the district's public information office in conjunction with city officials. In late August or early September, Grobe said she hopes the channel's programming duties will be given to video technology classes at Hutto High School. Grobe said the district is working with Time Warner Cable and Cisco Systems Inc. to offer networking technical certifications through the program as well.

"Anything that we can do to give our students hands-on experience with what they're going to experience in the real world, we want to," she said. "This is a way for our kids to get certification, it's another job or career pathway, [and] it's another way that we can make our kids career- and college-ready."

In addition to HISD's contributions, the city hopes to use the channel for meetings, city-sponsored events and a communitywide calendar. Mayor Debbie Holland said the channel is another avenue the city could use to get more residents involved.

"We recognized years ago that there is no one way to reach all of the citizens, and I think that's why you see city staff and council trying so many different avenues of outreach to the community," Holland said. "I think [the channel is] just another opportunity to reach out to the community that has not plugged into what's going on in town."

Fiber cable will be run from Time Warner Cable's Round Rock location to a hub for the channel set up at the high school. The hub will be equipped with a switch and two encoders, which allow programming to be broadcast on the channel.

The total cost for setting up the channel is $30,000. The city will spend approximately $18,000 to install the fiber cable, and will split the $12,000 cost for other equipment with the district, with both parties paying $6,000 each.

The district will likely incur additional expenses to provide the computers and software needed to create programming and run the channel. The district has already planned to upgrade its computers, Grobe said, but has not figured out exact costs and is still deciding how much equipment will need to be upgraded.

By Korri Kezar
Korri Kezar graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011 with a degree in journalism. She worked for Community Impact Newspaper's Round Rock-Pflugerville-Hutto edition for two years before moving to Dallas. Five years later, she returned to the company to launch Community Impact Newspaper's Keller-Roanoke-Northeast Fort Worth edition, where she covers local government, development, transportation and a variety of other topics. She has also worked at the San Antonio Express-News, Austin-American Statesman and Dallas Business Journal.