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Historic High Tech

Much like the rest of Boston's downtown area, the John Adams Courthouse (the former Old Suffolk County Courthouse) is an historic building that has seen the world evolve into today's modern technological society. To keep pace with the times, the Adams Courthouse underwent a massive renovation and construction project that was finished in January 2005.

A partnership with Suffolk University makes the Web casting system possible. Greg Comeau, managing associate director of University Media Services at the Suffolk University Law School worked with Cavanaugh Tocci and Randall on system specification and capability.

Randall's design takes the video feed from the courtroom and sends it to the roof, where it is broadcast via a microwave wireless link across the street to a Suffolk University building. The wireless is a secure connection using a 2.4 GHz encoded and encrypted data stream with proprietary technology by Proxim Wireless, manufacturer of the Tsunami wireless bridge. From there, the signal downlinks to Suffolk University servers and is converted to Windows Media files, says Randall. “It is economical, since there is no need to rent fiber and is a one-time capital expenditure for the equipment,” he says.

The internal Webcast lets people in the courthouse monitor what is happening in each courtroom via VBrick MPEG-4 video that is sent to desktops within the building with a VBrick player. External Internet users can see the live stream, directed by Erlyn Ordinario of University Media Services, generated by Starbak MPEG-2 video using standard Windows components.

To address any security concerns, the Webcast does not touch the Supreme Judicial Court network. Randall's design established a separate network to sidestep security and bandwidth issues. Both fiber for the video and copper for the control system are run up to the roof; Suffolk University already had their infrastructure in place.

Testing of the Web casting system began in May 2005. The Adams Courthouse live “gavel-to-gavel” coverage was an instant hit with attorneys, students, the media, and the general public. According to the Supreme Judicial Court, the Webcast had 947 viewers on a single day. One of the first cases Webcast live was a hearing before the Supreme Judicial Court in which the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts was moving to have the court set aside the landmark ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

The lead installer on the project was Ostrow Electric, which also brought in Univisions Crimson and Central Communications, was the lead installer on the project. HB Communications installed the Web casting system.

Linda Seid Frembes is a magazine journalist and public relations consultant for the professional AV industry. Visit her at

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