JEFFERSON CITY - Teaching by telephone could become a reality at your neighborhood school this year as a result of action by the state's Public Service Commission.
With the recent agreement between Southwestern Bell Telephone Company and the Missouri Public Service Commission, interactive video services will become an option for schools by Sept. 12.
The agreement between the PSC, state's utility regulating agency, and Southwestern Bell authorizes the telephone company to provide two-way, interactive video services for distance learning through Missouri telephone lines.
Interconnection within other telephone companies will be priced on an individual case basis.
The Broadband Educational Videoconferencing Service (BEVS) will be available only to accredited educational schools in Missouri, both private and public, within Southwestern Bell's territories.
With BEVS, students at different schools can take classes not offered at their school from an instructor at another school through the interactive video. This distance learning system has an advantage over others because it enables students and teacher to see and hear each other simultaneously and interact spontaneously.
"It's basically a consolidation of teachers as well as offering students a wider variety of courses and curriculum," said Al Mueller, chairman of the PSC.
Through high-capacity video connections, both the teacher and the students can hear each other and respond to questions, comments and participate in class discussions, Mueller said.
Experimental programs in the western, central and northeastern regions of the state have given good results, Mueller said.
The PSC decided by engaging in distance learning activities, the public would be best served.
Mueller said when the telephone lines cross area code boundaries, problems arise, since long distance carriers are involved. However, the total cost would be figured into the rate the telephone company gives the school, he said.
Southwestern Bell assigned a task force to decide the tariff rates, which will cover Southwestern Bell's incremental costs as well as their profit of an additional five percent. Because state law prohibits telephone companies from providing free services, the tariff rates will be the lowest possible tariffs without being subsidized.