Free videoconferencing offered to victims
By Scarlet Pruitt
(IDG) -- With thousands of people left stranded by a halt in air travel across the United States following last week's terrorism attacks in New York and Washington D.C., some videoconferencing providers are reporting a surge in use of their services, while others are responding by offering free videoconferencing to those affected by the tragedy.
Although limited travel resumed in parts of the United States on Thursday, some conferences and meetings have been canceled here and abroad in the wake of the four hijackings and subsequent plane crashes on September 11.
Given the travel restrictions, companies are reporting an increase in videoconferencing, as people look for communication alternatives to in-person meetings. A representative for conference services provider V-Span estimated that use of their services increased from 30 percent to 50 percent Tuesday following the attacks. Meanwhile, Web conference software maker SpartaCom said that it expects an increase in demand for its product in light of recent travel limitations.
Some videoconference providers are offering their services for free to aid survivors and their loved ones and advance recovery efforts.
Communication broadcasting and technology provider MCSi said last week it has allied with videoconference equipment maker PictureTel to offer free use of their hundreds of affiliated videoconference facilities across North America and around the world.
MCSi said that it will offer its services to those that need to conduct remote medical consultations, family visits, patient outreach and emergency relief meetings, among other disaster-related conferences.
"We know how powerful and easy it is to use these facilities and during this time, when people do not want to fly; we thought it would be the right thing to do (to provide free services)," an MCSi spokeswoman said Friday.
MCSi has 25 facilities in the United States and Canada, and PictureTel, through its worldwide affiliates, can offer access to hundreds of other videoconference facilities around the globe.
E.mergent Inc.'s Acoustic Communications Systems division also announced that it is opening its videoconferencing facilities in Minneapolis and Chicago for free to families affected by the attacks. International Video-Conferencing, in New York, Net2000 Communications Inc. in Washington, and RoData in Pittsburgh have allied with E.mergent to implement and receive the video calls, the company said.
Besides providing videoconferencing services to survivors and their friends and family, another company, Expertcity, is offering unlimited free use of its telework service, GoToMyPC, in hopes of aiding people who need to access and work from their PCs while stranded.
GoToMyPC is software that lets users control their PCs from remote locations via a Web browser. The company said Wednesday that it will be offering the software without cost for 30 days.
Free use of GoToMyPC is available at www.gotomypc.com.
Victims of Tuesday's attacks can call E.mergent's Wayne Lusthoff at +1-877-776-0227, for use of its free videoconferencing services,. MCSi can be reached at by clicking the "Video Relief" tab on the company's site at www.mcsinet.com, or by calling Terry Carr at +1-800-875-5211, extension 7720.
Joris Evers in IDG New Service's Amsterdam bureau contributed to this report.
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