CA: AT$T Says Attack Misinformed

Posted on January 24, 2008 - 9:49am.

Note: The 'attacks' in question were hardly misinformed - only AT&T's response can be considered misinformation. AT&T places regional PEG channels on a Channel 99 submenu on their U-verse system - a submenu list that could grow to over a hundred becoming increasingly unwieldy and useless. This is a side-effect of telco/cable providers moving to a regional head-end, eliminating local head-in systems for cost efficiencies (think Clear Channel and the loss of localism).

As for the tech and signal shortcomings where PEG is delivered to head-ins at half-resolution via a windows media stream (using new equipment required by AT&T specs and at PEG center cost). True, this 'may be' legal according to interpretation of the new state franchise legislation, but remember that AT&T wrote this legislation in states around the country.

As for close captioning, despite Mr Bell's concern for the deaf, the new AT&T delivery system (video streaming) makes it impossible for PEG providers to comply using their current broadcast standard equipment.

from: Palo Alto Daily News

Attack on AT&T plan misinformed
Tuesday Jan 22

Guest Opinion

BY Sylvia Samano / Vice president, AT&T External Affairs - Bay Area
(Editor's Note: In a recent article and a subsequent editorial on local government television programming, the Daily News was unable to reach AT&T officials for comment. The following is AT&T's response to our Jan. 6 editorial.)

Palo Alto is arguably one of California's shining examples of a city built on innovation and progressive thinking. You needn't look further than the computer on your desk or PDA in your hand to know that Palo Alto prides itself on looking toward the horizon and beyond.

As home to numerous high-tech and other visionary companies, it's not the place one would expect the newspaper of record to editorialize about a new product or service without first getting all the facts.

With this in mind, you can imagine how disappointed we were to read your unflattering and inaccurate editorial about a component of AT&T's new home entertainment/television service - without having seen it firsthand or getting our point of view ("Can AT&T still deliver? Don't shortchange local TV offerings," Jan. 6).

In an attempt to set the record straight regarding our delivery of public, education and government (PEG) programming, we believe that strong education, effective government and open communication help create the unity that ties a community together. That's why we welcome the opportunity to help bring the next generation of community access programming to Palo Alto and other cities we serve.

AT&T U-verse, our competitive new choice for digital TV/home entertainment service, includes PEG programming that has the same content and information as cable customers receive.

However, our PEG platform provides a new and innovative way of delivering content that can benefit Palo Alto. Unlike cable, our system uses state-of-the-art Internet Protocol or IP-based technology. It's a new, more interactive system where consumers get to call the shots. With our PEG programming, viewers get the best of both worlds - the ability to see PEG programs from their community and from neighboring communities with the convenience of having it all in a single, easy-to-remember location - something you don't get from cable.

As you learn more about our new PEG service, we hope you'll find that your reference to our taking a "generic" approach to communities is not at all the case.

And like the purveyors of most new products and services, we're already implementing upgrades and improvements. For example, a recent system upgrade stores the most recently watched PEG channel so the viewer can expedite return to that channel.

Because our PEG service does not currently offer closed captioning, you indicate that viewers with hearing problems are "out of luck." Again, that's not at all the case.

In fact, our PEG service includes open captioning where the captioned text is embedded within the video stream, so it is "on" for all our viewers all the time. Beyond our PEG service, AT&T has pioneered and patented numerous services for the hearing impaired. Our track record goes as far back as our founder, Alexander Graham Bell, a teacher of the deaf, who invented the telephone while attempting to create a device to stimulate the hearing process.

You also disparaged the placement of our PEG programming located at Channel 99. In fact, this decision was deliberate - Channel 99 bridges the local station lineup with the national channel lineup, which begins at Channel 100. Customers who subscribe to any U-verse TV package can tune to Channel 99 to access PEG programming or can go straight to PEG programming from their main menu by selecting the Local Public Education and Government button.

Lastly, it was suggested that our proposed handling of local programming may violate state law. Not so. AT&T's PEG product provides the quality and functionality the law requires, satisfies the public objectives behind PEG programming and also delivers true innovation.

The law does not mandate the use of a specific technology. In fact, the law envisions competitive providers will use a variety of technological choices to provide video service. From a consumer's perspective, the AT&T PEG product offers quality, functionality and innovative benefits.

AT&T is continuously evaluating opportunities to improve the viewer experience with our suite of digital TV offers and we're currently working on several enhancements, including PEG programming. The technology is new and is improving - more features are on the way.

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