After more than a year of installation work, the ability to extend the Utah State University programming state-wide via satellite is becoming a reality, according to Gerald Olson, associate director of USU Extension.

This new communication link is having a major effect on USU Extension programming in remote counties such as Sevier and San Juan, providing what one Extension agent described as "limitless" potential for educational activities.Satellite downlink equipment in 13 locations statewide has now been installed and will be operational in the very near future. An additional three counties have committed funds to extend the program to their county Extension offices, Olson said.

"I am working with other counties over the next month to obtain matching funds for additional downlink systems," he said.

The satellite system in Sevier County gets high praise from Joseph Austin, Extension southwest district supervisor.

He said they use the downlink in Sevier County to receive programs sponsored by USU and other universities.

The satellite programs combine convenience with variety, Austin said.

"It was great this morning to tune into Galaxy 6 Channel 12 and receive the `Getting Ahead by Letting Go' program from Ohio State," he said. "All I had to do was just walk into the other (Extension office) room and turn on the set. There was no travel time involved."

He said satellite programs through USU Extension are also available for use by other county entities for training and participating in videoconferences.

"As the potential audiences get to know the system is here and the program offerings it carries, more and more use will occur," he said.

The "new age of technology" has also arrived in San Juan County, said Extension agent Jim Keyes. He said the downlink system has been "a very positive addition" to programming in the county, providing limitless educational opportunities for county residents that would not have been available otherwise.

"Programs coming via the satellite can be viewed at the time of showing or can be taped and shown at a later date," he said. "One of the convenient aspects of taping a program is that interested individuals can view the tape at their own leisure."

He said selecting educational offerings from the satellite system "is as easy as reading the TV Guide." He said programs listed in the monthly directory that fit the needs and interests of the county can be advertised for viewing or recorded for later use.

Satellite workshops held in San Juan County include programs on beef cattle heat synchronization, meeting the needs of children, working with the disabled and elderly, and many more. In addition, other government entities are using the communication system for programs specific to their needs, he said.

"A big hit with the satellite system has been video livestock auctions," he said. "When video auctions are held, the TV is just left on and cattle producers come and go from the Extension office throughout the day as they watch the happenings of the satellite market."

He said the new system has had its humorous moments as well.

For example, just after installation, Extension secretary Lillian Taylor was trying to locate a program for a group of cattle producers.

"As the satellite was rotating, it stopped on an X-rated movie," he said. "Lillian, being somewhat flustered, tried to change the channel with the remote control, but had no success."

He said she hurriedly ran up and turned the TV off and informed everyone that they would have to leave the room until she could get the channel changed.

"Needless to say, no one left," he said. "Eventually the channel was changed and the proper program found."

Olson said he is meeting this month with agents and county commissioners throughout the state to obtain joint funding between the counties and the university for additional downlinks.

He said officials interested in having downlink satellite systems installed in their counties to link them with USU and other universities nationwide, should contact him at 750-2194.