TX: Report on San Antonio AT$T Proposal to Test U-Verse

Posted on April 11, 2007 - 11:55am.

from: Save Texas Access

Report on San Antonio AT&T Proposal to Test U-Verse
Submitted by savetexasaccess on Wed, 2007-04-11 05:17.

Here is a copy of the San Antonio AT&T Proposed Agreement:
Public Education and Government (PEG) Programming Signal First Office Application Testing Agreement

See Video at: 411 productions

More than two years after basically writing SB 5 – Texas’ statewide video franchise law that passed the Legislature in 2005 – AT&T now seems to be interpreting that law for San Antonio city officials.

The San Antonio City Council is poised to vote on an ordinance that will solidify an agreement, based on SB 5, between AT&T and the city that outlines a scope of work for testing the telco’s new U-Verse TV Service.

City officials outlined the plan for public access advocates at a meeting today in San Antonio’s municipal building.

From Austin, I went to San Antonio today to meet with public access advocates and to then attend a meeting with city officials about a proposed agreement between San Antonio and AT&T that would set terms for AT&T to test the delivery, from the City, of Public, Educational, and Government (PEG) programming on its new U-Verse IPTV system.

The late morning meeting was at the Esperanza Center and involved an attorney who works with that organization, the Director of the Esperanza Center, several people from Texas Media Empowerment, and an San Antonio access producer who is very involved with trying to re-establish public access.

Later, at the San Antonio municipal building, this group was joined with other public access producers, to hear a presentation from city officials about the intent behind this proposed agreement that was on the City Council agenda last week, but was postponed until the City Council meeting this week.

The city officials argued that it was simply an agreement about a test and nothing more, but there were a lot of questions from the public access advocates about the Texas video franchise law and how it was being interpreted to AT&T’s benefit.

For example, there were questions raised about this portion of the proposed agreement:

“WHEREAS, pursuant to Section 66.009(g) of the Texas Utilities Code the City is required to provide PEG programming in a format or protocol compatible with the AT&T Texas’ IPTV technology. . . “

This is the agreement’s interpretation of this section of the state video franchise law:

“Sec. 66.009. PUBLIC, EDUCATIONAL, AND GOVERNMENTAL ACCESS CHANNELS . . . (g) The municipality must ensure that all transmissions, content, or programming to be transmitted over a channel or facility by a holder of a state-issued certificate of franchise authority are provided or submitted to the cable service provider or video service provider in a manner or form that is capable of being accepted and transmitted by a provider, without requirement for additional alteration or change in the content by the provider, over the particular network of the cable service provider or video service provider, which is compatible with the technology or protocol utilized by the cable service provider or video service provider to deliver services.”

It’s not clear that the intent of this portion of SB 5 was designed to give cable or video service providers the right to force municipalities to considerably degrade the quality of PEG content through digital compression before delivering that signal.

But this, in effect, is what the AT&T U-Verse test is for. The proposed agreement is for a test of San Antonio’s ability to deliver PEG programming as a Windows Media Version 9 IP signal that is compatible with AT&T’s IPTV technology.

Another aspect of SB 5 that was discussed by public access advocates at the meeting is a specific section of that law that deals with the limited authority of municipalities. One of the few things that municipalities are allowed under a state franchise is establish guidelines for the operation of PEG channels.

San Antonio has some policies for the use of public access equipment. But community activists want to see broader guidelines or principles and be involved in the process of creating these. Doing so might be a way to set some ground rules for potential providers like AT&T.

April 10, 2007
Stefan Wray

( categories: AT&T | State Franchises | TEXAS )