ACM Testimony at Congressional Hearing

Posted on January 30, 2008 - 7:48am.

from: Alliance for Community Media

Alliance Testifies Before House Subcommittee on
Telecommunications and the Internet: PEG Access in the Digital Age

The Alliance was represented today by Ms. Annie Folger, Executive Director of the Midpeninsula Media Center. Ms. Folger’s remarks addressed the difficulties faced byPublic, Educational and Government Access (PEG) communities across the country. Many communities are seeing threats to their PEG facilities posed by video providersunwilling to meet the public interest needs required of them in exchange for use of the public rights of ways.

Millions of dollars have been spent by telephone and cable companies in the past two years on ad campaigns and lobbying to influence state cable franchise laws in 17+ states. The FCC has over-ruled Congress, assigning itself powers that Congress conferred on local communities.

According to Ms. Folger, “This chaos is being used to dismantle PEG support and to damage channel quality and accessibility. We welcome competition. But it cannot be used to gut PEG Access provisions that have provided direct service to the local community.”

Ms. Folger’s testimony made special example of AT&T’s blockage of closed-captioning for PEG channels on its U-Verse system— a function which is found on all of its commercial channels. At DeAnza Community College in Ms. Folger’s home town, this policy results in the inability of hearing impaired students to view classes which they need to improve their lives.

According to Alliance Executive Director, Anthony Riddle, “AT&T’s practice is not the only bad act
by a video provider, but their willingness to sacrifice the needs of disabled students in a race for
profit certainly makes them the poster child of corporate irresponsibility.”

Another issue raised was the “channel-slamming” engaged in by Comcast. Channel slamming is the practice of relocating PEG channels from desirable locations to inaccessible or unfamiliar “wilderness” locations on short notice and without consulting the communities involved. Additional purchases or steps may be required of viewers to continue viewing PEG channels. This practice isolates the PEG channels and tends to decrease viewership.

Many PEG centers have moved into digital technology for production and transmission. PEG centers are fully engaged in migration to an integrated digital environment when allowed. The primary challenge for PEG access is not digital technology, but how cable providers— whether traditional cable operator or telephone company— provide PEG signal quality, functionality, channel placement and funding support.

For more detail, please refer to the attached testimonies and summaries.

ACM: Annie Folger Summary: summary-testimony.doc

ACM: Annie Folger Testimony: folger-written-testimony.pdf

Dearborn: John O’Reilly Testimony: john-oreilly-written-testimony.pdf

Comcast: David Cohen Testimony: david-cohen-written-testimony.pdf

AT&T: Gail Torreano Testimony: gail-torreano-testimony.doc

( categories: AT&T | Comcast | MICHIGAN | State Franchises )