Thursday, May 12, 2022

A Quick Bit Of Feedback On The Court's New Online Viewing System

I'll get to the Redistricting Board court hearing later today or tomorrow, but first I want to give Judge Matthews and the court administrators some feedback on their new online viewing option.  

However, I will say right now, the Judge said he would rule on both the original remand AND the Girdwood appeal of the April Board Proclamation Plan on Monday, May 16, 2022.  

It took about 15 minutes to actually get to listen to today's Alaska Redistricting Board's hearing in Judge Thomas Matthews virtual courtroom.  The current system doesn't let you see the the Judge's name, apparently, until they are ready to go on the record.  So you can sit there and just wait.  But what if it's not working?  Or what if your internet isn't working right with the Court's new online system?  At 10:03am I called the court to ask. I've had enough questions for the clerk prior to today that I had her number and called her to check what was happening.  

Clerk:  "I think it's starting late.  Oh, there it is."  

Steve:  "I don't see anything."  

Clerk:  Try reloading the site

Steve:  Nothing

Clerk:  Let me email you a different url.

And then, finally on this new link, I could see the judge's name. I could click to watch live.  But it wouldn't load right.  I had tried this with other judges since this happened the first time this system was in place for Judge Matthews and it worked better after I upgraded my Mac's operating system.  But not great. And today's court hearing would give five seconds of sound and then stop.  I finally tried using my phone and when I shut off the wifi on my phone, it came in fine.  

My internet is slow. (That's another story)  But I can watch Netflix without trouble.  Whenever I attended Board meetings online I was able to watch without any trouble.  I can Zoom with decent connection.  I could watch the Court hearings when they were on Youtube.  But this new system just doesn't work for me over my computer.  And after I switched to cell connection on my phone  I got a couple of messages from ATT that I was pushing my monthly limit while I watched today.  

My concern here is that I live in Anchorage with internet that allows me to do all the internet viewing mentioned above without trouble.  But many people in rural Alaska have much more trouble than I have in Anchorage with internet reception.  If the Courts are going to have a new system, they should have a system that all Alaskans with internet can listen in to.  If I can't get it - even as I pay close attention to this process and how to connect, then folks with lesser attention to redistricting and lesser internet connectivity surely are blocked from meaningful access to this system.  

So, two things:

1.  The system needs a way to let viewers know before the meeting starts, that they are at the right place and the meeting is coming up.  Right now, you just go on faith alone.  If I had just waited and not called, I would have missed the whole thing. 

2.  The system should be accessible on slower bandwidth  than it is now.  As I said, I can Zoom and watch Netflix and other kinds of conferencing and viewing - including all the Board meetings and the Court's previous YouTube set up.  But I can't connect via my computer for this new system.  

I know the judge is busy with cases, but I also know he wants people to be able to watch in on important cases with Statewide impact like this one.  

I'd also note that the Most Requested Cases Page prior to today, the latest document up was the Girdwood Plaintiff's Complaint, dated 5/2/22.  Only today was I able to access 

and 13 other documents from the last ten days.  This is an expedited case and if the public and the press are going to have timely access, these documents need to be available right after they show up on the docket.  

Again, I know everyone is speeding along with cases, but these are important if the public is going to have access to important cases.  

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