GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — U.S. Army Europe plans to upgrade its computer networks so soldiers can access online streaming media, officials say.

Daniel La Chance, a senior policy writer for USAREUR’s chief information officer, said last week that limited bandwidth means soldiers and civilians are barred from accessing streaming media content on government computers at U.S. Army bases in Europe.

Streaming media includes video and audio that can be accessed on a computer over the Internet. For example, CNN offers streaming video and audio through links on its Web site.

La Chance said the Army is looking at how it can make streaming media available to people doing government business online at Army bases in Europe.

USAREUR public affairs officer Bob Purtiman said a policy is being developed on exactly what official business Internet audio and video could be used for.

One area in which it might be useful is training. For example, soldiers trying a new computer battle simulator at Grafenwöhr’s Noncommissioned Officer Academy this month said they would like to see an online link between soldiers training at a base in Europe and soldiers in the U.S.

“We would like to be able to do official things that video can help us do on the network, but we need to make sure what we are doing is not going to bring down the network for all the official applications that are running on it. Bandwidth is limited and it costs money to upgrade pipes,” La Chance said.

“It is not like we have fiber optic connections on every part of the network and unlimited amounts of bandwidth. Allowing people to flood the network with personal requests (for streaming media) could become problematic.

“That is one of the reasons we have limits on use. Streaming content is filtered because it is hugely bandwidth-intensive.”

The only way to get access to streaming media through a government computer on an Army base in Europe is by having a request approved by USAREUR’s Information Technology Division, he said.

Purtiman said the amount of bandwidth varies among bases in Europe and that bandwidth data for particular bases is a secret. So is the amount of bandwidth that the Army needs to add to make streaming media available, he said.

And it is difficult to quantify how much the project will cost, Purtiman added.

“The network is constantly being upgraded, but the costs are hard to figure,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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