Archive Pen & Links

Why is audio of one Yuba City Unified meeting a 1.06 GB file?

August 30, 2010

Do you want to listen to the latest Yuba City Unified School District meeting? I hope you have a good internet connection.

The Aug. 24 meeting audio, linked to in the left column of the page, weighs in at a whopping 1.06 gigabytes. In other words, over 1,000 megabytes.

By the way, because I know most people hate thinking about numbers, I’ve bolded each one to make it easier to understand.

Still need more perspective as to how huge that file is? According to this download calculator that file should take nearly two days on a dial-up 56K connection. On a DSL connection, that total drops to just under a day.

This megalith of a file was the audio of a 2-hour meeting that was saved in WAV format, or Waveform Audio File Format. It’s considered a lossless format, which means little to no compression of the audio is done. It’s like putting out the trash without using a compactor – it could take up a lot less space.

Without going into too much jargon and detail, I took that same file and compressed it to an MP3. That same file went from 1.06 gigabytes to 34.4 megabytes. That’s a 97 percent drop in size.

I downloaded the rest of the files, which were encoded in variations of MP3 and WAV, and re-encoded them. The 4.11 gigabytes of audio from six months of meetings turned into 661 megabytes — an 85 percent drop.

This situation irks me two ways. First off, nobody wants to download a gigabyte of audio. Our education reporter Ryan McCarthy was trying to listen to that meeting for a story and nearly gave up since the download would have swallowed half of his workday. Public records, like audio of meetings, shouldn’t be this difficult to access. This area is starved enough for quality Internet access as is without the burden of trying to download something roughly the size of a full-length movie from iTunes.

Secondly, I hate to see the district’s bill at the end of the month trying to service these downloads. While school meeting audio isn’t exactly something topping the Hot 100 charts, it’s not going to take much to rack up a huge bill. A site that’s used to serving maybe a few hundred megabits of data a day will see a 10-fold spike in bandwidth usage with a mere 10 downloads of one meeting.

I’ve already contacted the webmaster for YCUSD, but I have yet to get a response.