CT: Is the face of public access programming changing?

Posted on April 16, 2008 - 6:38am.

from: Simsbury Community TV

Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Is the face of public access programming changing?

Could revisions to a bill passed by the House last year change the way West Hartford residents view public access programming?

That's the question some public access leaders are asking after members of the Connecticut House of Representatives convened to revise the language of a 2007 bill deregulating the cable broadcasting market in the state. Supporters of the bill hoped it would stimulate competition by allowing new entrants into Connecticut's television broadcasting market.

Recently, members of the House revised provisions of House Bill 5814 to require video franchise providers to interconnect with public access at no cost to public access. Some public access leaders said language in the revisions could negatively effect the future of public access programming.

One of public access leaders' greatest concerns was a provision that, while stating that service providers must pay for interconnection costs, also stated that service providers "could use the method most economical for them," said Jennifer Evans, production manager for West Hartford Community Television.

Following testimony by Evans and others at a recent legislative hearing, members of the House removed the phrase "most economical" from the bill. They also removed the bill provision that assured costs for interconnection with public access stations would be paid for by the entrant video broacasting franchises, said Evans.

Rep. Steve Fontana (D-North Haven) said AT&T, a video service franchise making in-roads in Connecticut, has drafted a letter in which the company pledges to pay for all interconnection costs. Although he and his colleagues had not yet received the letter as of March 12, Fontana said that it is legally binding. leaving no need for the bill provision.

In his testimony at a recent legislative hearing, the president of Connecticut Network, Paul Giguere, voiced concerns about the way AT&T has made community access programming available in parts of California and Michgan, the only other states where the AT&T U-Verse platform is currently operational. Giguere said that AT&T's U-Verse PEG platform, which the company plans to use to transmit public access channels, transmits with much lower video quality than is currently offered on public access channels in Connecticut.

Evans said the platform made public access programming look like "YouTube on TV."
Evans said that in addition to seeking assurance that interconnection and transmission costs would be covered by all service providers, the people behind West Hartford Community Television are advocating for language that sets quality, accessibilty and functionality standards.

Citing long channel-loading delays and confusing drop-down menus, Evans said that AT&T's product for delivering public access is inferior to the platform on which commercial channels are delivered.

"New technology is supposed to enhance, not degrade, the delivery of a channel. Instead, we find that AT&T's PEG solution is inferior and, frankly, unacceptable. Please don't legislate a race to the bottom," said Evans in her testimony before legislators.

©West Hartford News 2008

( categories: AT&T | CONNECTICUT )