CA: ED Annie Folger Preserving Public Access in Washington DC

Posted on February 18, 2008 - 3:56pm.

from: Midpeninsula Community Media Center

See source above for video links

Friday, February 8, 2008
ED Annie Folger Preserving Public Access in Washington DC

The Media Center's Executive Director, Annie Folger, recently flew out to Washington DC to speak in front of Congress, representing the Alliance for Community Media. She was fighting for Comcast and AT&T to continue to providing PEG (Public, Educational and Government) services as they currently are (or better) and to abide by local, state, and federal laws.

Here are some of the issues being addressed:

AT&T is changing the way it carries Public, Educational and Government Access (PEG) channels, arguably at a disadvantage to customers and the community. Currently, the Media Center provides five channels that are run on Comcast Channels 26-30 in the local midpeninsula area. There are also two educational channels operated by the Community College Network and Stanford on channels 75 and 76. When AT&T offers its U-Verse video service the midpeninsula area, it will not provide each channel separately but instead offer ALL PEG channels on Channel 99. Citizens will have to scroll through all of the Bay Area's cities to find their local broadcasts. AT&T argues that this will allow viewers to see PEG programming from many communities. While this may be a benefit of interest to some, it misses the point of PEG services. PEG is designed with the specific intent of being LOCAL and broadcasting content that addresses local issues. If one wanted to watch programs made here in Palo Alto, he/she must first go to channel 99 and wait from 45 to 90 seconds for a computer application to boot up. Then he/she must scroll through the alphabetical listing of Bay Area cities to find Palo Alto, then through the list of the seven local channels to find the one desired. When the program does appear, the picture resolution will be reduced by 75% and will appear in a small window. It will take one additional click on zoom to fill the screen, making the inferior resolution even more apparent. Local programming will be greatly buried and difficult to find.

Secondly, AT&T's business plans provides its U-Verse video services through its copper phone wires rather than investing in a fatter fiber pipe into the home. So it can reserve bandwidth for profit making, AT&T will serve PEG channels on a computer application with additional limitations. Additionally, AT&T's DVR (Digital Video Recorder) boxes are not able to record PEG Channels. They claim that TiVo and third party DVRs can record them, but this remains to be seen. To see an uncut video of a Cupertino, CA AT&T U-Verse customer accessing the PEG programming, you can watch the following video:

Thirdly, AT&T's channel 99 cannot pass through Closed Captioning that is mandated by California Law. It also does not provide a Second Audio Program (SAP) for Spanish language programming. AT&T says that they will offer "Open Captioning" on PEG channels, which means that if a program is provided with captioning, it cannot be turned off, thus obscuring part of the content for all viewers. However, on regular cable channels, closed captioning is offered. Students who are taking telecourses at local community colleges will be at a disadvantage because they will not be able to clearly view things like Powerpoints, which teachers often use in their lessons.

Basically, AT&T is treating PEG providers and PEG services as second class citizens. As it is proposed by AT&T, PEG channels will be provided to consumers through separate and unequal means -- carried over inadequate technology resulting in substandard quality, and offered with inadequate features. AT&T says that by removing one PEG channel from the spectrum, they free up space for three high-definition channels. It is apparent that these business choices are not limited by technology, and are motivated by profits rather than the good of the community and their consumers.

PEG programming is important for the purposes of preserving and representing the diversity in our communities, addressing local issues that are missed by the mainstream media, providing training and access to the public in media production, supporting local educational institutions and students, providing access to local governments for citizens, and more.

Please help support and protect the integrity of Public Access Media Centers all over the nation. You can write to your local congressperson, donate to your local public access provider, and best of all, continue to educate yourself about the issue.
Posted by Midpeninsula Community Media Center at 2:37 PM

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