Community Media: Selected Clippings – 02/19/08

New service lacks the CTN channels
by Tom Gantert
The Ann Arbor News (MI)

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Ann Arbor residents who choose AT&T U-verse – an Internet-based alternative to Comcast’s cable TV – won’t find Ann Arbor’s community-access channels on the service.  Ann Arbor’s Community Television Network hasn’t connected with AT&T’s signal because the city has a problem with how the communications company is presenting public, educational, government – or PEG – access channels.

AT&T’s service lets subscribers turn to a channel where they can reach a menu of all available public-access channels. From that list, subscribers select their city. Then the channels load. Ann Arbor’s CTN offers four channels.  So far, AT&T is only carrying one community-access channel, one that originates in Clinton Township.

Linda Badamo, director of Clinton Township’s cable TV division, said local officials aren’t satisfied with the way AT&T is handling PEG channels, but are working with the company to come to a compromise.  Badamo said the problem is that it can take as long as 20 to 90 seconds for a channel to load once selected. “I don’t think people are going to wait,” she said.

Editorial: State cable TV law needs a tune-up
Detroit Free Press (MI)


The end of analog TV signals a year from now is shaking up viewers in more ways than one. The biggest impact will fall on those with old, non-digital sets who get their signals over the air. Their TVs will simply not show a picture next year unless they get a converter box.

But Comcast’s counterproductive actions in Michigan suggest that even cable customers may be pressured by their suppliers into getting new cable converter boxes as well. Michigan lawmakers should follow through on bills that would prevent cable companies from rearranging basic service cable channels, made possible in part by the confusion over the coming change in the airwaves.

Public or community access channels need to remain just that — freely accessible to the community and public.

When over-the-air TV networks begin broadcasting exclusively in digital formats on Feb. 17, 2009, cable companies will convert those signals back into an analog transmission for those who still have analog TVs. Every viewer with a routine analog cable package should continue receiving the same service indefinitely.

Comcast, however, at least as its strategy initially emerged in Michigan, appears eager to rearrange its programming at the low end of the “dial” — presumably still the best spot for catching channel surfers. That’s where broadcast channels are now, along with local access channels that federal law requires to be in the same cable “tier” as the over-the-air stations.

But, until stopped by two courts earlier this winter, Comcast planned to move all local public access channels in Michigan to 900-level channels — out of reach of analog equipment, which 40% of its 1.3 million subscribers still use.   —>

Analog is Dead. Long Live Analog
Why Cable Won’t Go All-Digital By Feb. 18, 2009, Even If Broadcasters Will
by Todd Spangler
Multichannel News

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Is analog TV an albatross for cable?  Or — with just 365 days to go until over-the-air broadcasts from local stations go wholly digital — is it a critical near-term asset?  The short answer: It’s both.

Analog service, which has formed the foundation of the cable-TV industry since its inception, chews up an inordinate amount of space on its wires. A single analog channel requires a 6 Megahertz slice of spectrum. The same slice can carry 10 or more standard-definition channels delivered digitally.

And the future, in an increasingly high-definition world, is all-digital. “You can’t get anything but a digital TV set these days … and analog doesn’t look very good on a 50-inch LCD TV,” RCN vice president of engineering Rick Swiderski said.  In fact, cable operators are moving to eliminate fat analog signals to “reclaim” bandwidth, so they can introduce new high-definition channels, offer faster Internet access and expand video-on-demand services.

The industry would seem to have the motivation to make the break, exactly one year from now. At midnight on Feb. 17, 2009, the 1,760 full-power broadcast television stations in the United States are going all-digital.  By law, they will be required to relinquish the spectrum they’ve used for decades to transmit analog TV signals over the air. Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 18, all stations must be all-digital, all the time.

But just a handful of smaller cable systems, such as RCN Chicago and Bend Broadband in Bend, Ore., plan to be delivering 100% of the channels they supply customers in digital form by next February. And their reasons for doing so are only indirectly related to the transition to digital broadcasting by TV stations.   —>

This Could Be The End of Public Access in Austin . . .
Save Texas Access

. . . if Time Warner successfully sues to get out of the franchise agreement with the City.  The following article “Court allows Texas Cable Industry to Challenge State Law” appeared in last week’s Austin American Statesman (Feb. 8, 2008).

Currently, the City’s franchise agreement with Time Warner Cable is set to expire in 2011.  Time Warner still owes more than $1 million in capital equipment funds for public access. If Time Warner gets out of the franchise agreement now, that money will be lost.

Please email the City’s Telecommunications Officer Rondella Hawkins at rondella.hawkins AT and demand that the remainder of all capital equipment funds be drawn down now.  Plus, with no City franchise agreement with Time Warner, there will be no more guaranteed operating funds. Any future funding from the City will be at the City Council’s discretion.

Public access needs you. Now is the time.  Save this date. The Telecommunications Commission is having a public hearing on public access on Wednesday, March 12, at 7:30 pm, at Austin’s City Hall.  Sign up to speak and tell the commission why you think public access has value and that the City must continue to support it.

Knology and Knoxville near agreement on cable dispute
by Hayes Hickman
Knoxville News Sentinel (TN)


Knology Inc. has agreed to invest $750,000 this year toward completing its citywide Internet, cable and telephone services network, under a renegotiated franchise agreement with the city of Knoxville.  Knology’s services were within reach of barely half of all city residences in 2006 when council members last raised the issue with the West Point, Ga.-based company, which was required to complete its build-out within four years after the city franchise took effect in April 2000. The contract also held Knology liable for noncompliance penalties of $5,000 per month…

Knology also agrees to begin carrying local community access television in its channel lineup and to equip several city recreation centers with Internet and telephone service at no cost.   —>

Broadband still a local concern
by Patrick Marshall
GCN – Government Computer News

If the federal government hadn’t stepped in to build the interstate highway system in the 1950s, it’s unlikely that the country’s subsequent economic boom would have been as robust as it was.  It is equally important, some say, that government get involved in building broadband infrastructure.

It seems the federal government isn’t going to step in, so municipal governments would be well advised to pick up the slack. At least that’s the recommendation of Christopher Mitchell, a research associate at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), a nonprofit research group.

“People need broadband so badly,” Mitchell told GCN. “To just sit around and say, ‘Well, we should rely on someone else to bring it in and keep us competitive with other cities in the region,’ that’s not really a good policy for a city that is trying to encourage economic development.”

Many cities have in recent years initiated programs to provide public Wi-Fi, and although a number of them have given up those programs, Mitchell said, cities shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Offering free Wi-Fi is not the only model cities should consider, nor is it the most likely to be self-sustaining, he said. “There have been some cases in which people have gotten into trouble by offering free services [without] having enough revenues from somewhere to cover it.”

A recent ILSR report written by Mitchell warns against relying on private service providers.  Some communities still are not served by those providers, and others cannot count on continuing services.  “Too many cities are currently reliant on private providers for essential infrastructure — a point brought home to Michigan when Comcast chose to stop supplying some police and fire stations with free broadband and television services,” the report stated.

The report examines all available technologies for delivering Internet connectivity and recommends a combination of fiber optic and wireless for most cities.   —>

Your Internet: Open or Closed?
by Timothy Karr
Huffington Post


During a Friday briefing in the chambers of the House Commerce Committee Tim Wu, Ben Scott, Marvin Ammori, Jef Pearlman and Markham Erickson laid out the central struggle in our campaign to save a free-flowing Internet.

At stake is whether the Internet will be open, neutral and accessible to all or a closed network — controlled by a handful of gatekeepers with monopoly tendencies.  The speakers laid out this conflict in clear, concise and often chilling terms. Their comments are drawn into relief against a backdrop of abuses by network giants Comcast, AT&T and Verizon.

The stage was also set by Reps. Ed Markey and Chip Pickering, who earlier in the week introduced the “Internet Freedom and Preservation Act” a forward-thinking piece of legislation that would write baseline Net Neutrality protections into the Communications Act, and give the FCC the teeth to stop incidents of discriminatory blocking and censorship over the Internet.  (And let’s not forget efforts by many of these same actors to gain immunity from prosecution for unwarranted spying on Americans.)

Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, often calls this conflict a “clash of civilizations.”   —>

Net Neutrality Fight Heats Up


The fight for net neutrality is intensifying with the recent confirmation that Comcast and other internet providers are restricting BitTorrent traffic. ‘Net neutrality’ is the basic principal that all traffic on the internet should be transmitted equally. Unfortunately, corporations like Comcast believe that they should be able to slow down or block certain types of traffic while accelerating other types (including their own).   —>

Cable and telcos side with Comcast in FCC BitTorrent dispute
by Matthew Lasar
Ars Technica


The race is on to get the last word in on the Comcast/BitTorrent controversy. With ten days left to file, telcos, trade, and advocacy groups are sending the Federal Communications Commission their statements on whether Comcast and other ISPs purposefully degrade peer to peer traffic, and if so, what to do about it. Not surprisingly, the debate pits broadband content providers and advocacy groups against the big telcos, cable companies, and their trade association backers.

Free Press and other net neutrality advocates asked for an FCC proceeding after Associated Press completed an investigation last year concluding that, in some instances, Comcast “hindered file-sharing by subscribers who used BitTorrent,” a popular P2P application. The comment cycle requests input on whether the practices with which Comcast and others have been accused trigger the FCC’s authority to ensure that IP services operate in a “neutral manner.” Also open for comment is video program provider Vuze’s request that the Commission put “reasonable boundaries on the operators’ ‘gatekeeper’ power over applications and content.”   —>

Aldermen candidates interviewed on Peg TV
Rutland Herald (VT)

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City voters can tune in to public access channel 21 today to keep track of the candidates in this year’s Board of Aldermen race.  Starting today and continuing until Monday, Rutland Community Access and Peg TV will air interviews between Rutland Herald reporter Brent Curtis and the four incumbents and three challengers running for the board this year.   Candidates David Allaire, Sharon Davis, Henry Heck, William Notte, Roy Thomas, Joe Tilden and Daniel White are vying for five seats on the board.

Voters can tune in at noon today, 2 p.m. on Wednesday, 10 a.m. on Thursday, 5 p.m. on Friday, 6 p.m. on Saturday, 7:30 p.m. on Sunday and noon on Monday.

Letter to the Editor: Marshfield Community Television update
Marshfield Mariner (MA)

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As of Jan. 1, 2008, the Public Access, Education and Government (PEG) cable television stations are no longer under the auspices of Comcast cable. Instead, a nonprofit organization has been created by the Marshfield Cable Access Board. This new entity is called Marshfield Community Television (MCTV) and is charged with oversight of the three branches of the PEG stations.

Volunteers were solicited and selected by the Marshfield selectmen to form the board of directors of MCTV. This board consists of seven members who meet regularly to manage the finances and other issues relating to the administration of the public access channels. One of the first tasks the board faces is to hire an executive director, who will be responsible for the daily operation of the station.

Over the past few months, many Marshfield households have begun to switch from Comcast to Verizon for their cable coverage. Verizon is not presently connected to the town’s cable system, and therefore does not air MCTV programs. This situation will be changing soon.   —>

Town hires cable manager
by Andrea Bulfinch
Ipswich Chronicle (MA)

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The town has hired a new temporary station manager to continue running the cable access channel.  Donald Berman of Beverly Farms, president of the BevCam Board of Directors, was recently hired on a consulting basis to oversee the Ipswich studio. Berman designed and built the studio in Beverly.

Channel 9, the station on which Ipswich broadcasts, has been run by volunteers since the closing of Comcast’s Newburyport studio during the summer.  “It’s been held together by the generosity of Scott Ames,” Town Manager Bob Markel said. Ames has been cable casting programming from the High School.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: BitTorrent, broadband policy, cable franchising, cable vs telco, citizen journalism, DTV transition, election programming, FCC, IPTV, municipal broadband, municiple wi-fi, net neutrality, PEG access TV, public access television, telecommunications policy, U-Verse, video franchising

One Comment on “Community Media: Selected Clippings – 02/19/08”

  1. […] – an Internet-based alternative to Comcast??s cable TV – won??t find Ann Arbor??s community Technologies? – SlashdotWith a swarm it is harder to differentiate for […]

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