Community Media: Selected Clippings – 03/08/08: Connecticut

Email from Annie Folger, Executive Director of Midpeninsula Community Media Center, Palo Alto, CA, Thursday, March 6:

Yesterday I was contacted by Andy Schatz, a Connecticut attorney in Palo Alto on business, who is also President of West Hartford Community Television. Andy will be testifying in front of his state legislature on Friday. Andy wanted to come by and see AT&T’s PEG product. Because Palo Alto does not yet have the service, I could not show it to him. He said that AT&T is discounting the Cupertino demo, saying it was edited and not a fair representation.

It turns out that Jeff, one of our part-time employees, shares a house in San Mateo where AT&T’s U-verse was recently installed. So, yesterday afternoon Jeff and Andy went to Jeff’s house and made a new demo. It appears that AT&T has made a few changes since the demos we witnessed in San Ramon, but it still takes a long time to find our channels. I will send you a link to it tomorrow. Jeff did a great job, in the later part of the 6 minute demo, of splitting the screen and showing Andy using the timer in a way that it’s clear there is no editing!



Energy & Technology Committee Public Hearing: 3/7/2008
Connecticut Network

This On-Demand file is closed captioned. Click here for more information. (Date Recorded: 3/7/2008)
Length: 14 hr 2 min; Watch Video On-demand Stream Now; Click Here to Purchase a Video (Views: 93)

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[ Note the jaw-dropping arrogance of the AT&T spokesperson. – rm ]

Regular channels on AT&T sought for community access [extended report]
by George Moore (CT)

[ 1 comment ]

HARTFORD – Public television officials and others argued before the state legislature Friday that AT&T should be required to offer community access and government television as regular channels in its new U-verse television service.

AT&T’s new “internet protocol” television service plans to offer all of the state’s local community access stations under a drop-down menu accessed from a single channel, 99. Community access officials said it would take as long as a minute to find a community access program and that the signal quality would not match that of commercial stations.

Officials discussed AT&T’s new service as a part of hearing on a bill before the General Assembly’s Committee on Energy and Technology.

The U-verse presentation of community access programming “looks like YouTube on TV,” said Jennifer Evans, production manager for West Hartford Community Television. The law, she said, should “insist that public access be delivered at equivalent capacity.” After selecting a public access channel on U-verse, a viewer would have to wait for software to launch that would display the channel. “Nobody, I hate to say it, in our world is going to wait a minute to watch a channel,” said state Rep. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford.

But AT&T public affairs Director David Mancuso said after the hearing the U-verse presentation is no worse than the cable system. It’s a different system, he said, based on a new digital technology that offers “a new world of programming opportunities” for public access stations. “I think change is always disruptive and I think that’s probably where their concerns are rooted,” he said. While the delay to watch public access is about 15 seconds, he said, that might speed up with technological improvements.

Energy and Technology Committee Chairman Steve Fontana, D-North Haven, noted that U-verse is still required to offer community access, “albeit in a time-consuming drop-down menu.” Fontana said U-verse technology does not allow the company to offer public access channels in the same way that traditional cable companies do. Mandating that U-verse provide public access in regular channels would effectively “undermine their ability to compete,” Fontana said, which would then undermine the state’s interest in allowing for video competition in the state.

Wallingford Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said in testimony read by a town official that “the principles of fairness should not be sacrificed in the interest of technology changes.”

Fontana said the bill would require AT&T to pay for the connection equipment needed to link U-verse to community access stations. U-verse has been asking community access stations to pay $5,000 for an encoder to connect to U-verse. Mancuso said the company is arguing against the mandate, stating it is better for AT&T to negotiate with community access stations to find a solution.

Also testifying Friday was Paul Giguere, president and CEO of Connecticut Network or CT-N. A battle has erupted between CT-N and AT&T about whether CT-N should be offered with a broadcast quality equivalent to that of CSPAN. AT&T has offered to give CT-N a listing among commercial channels, but the channel would be displayed at the same resolution of public access channels. The company also has offered to broadcast a second CT-N channel that would carry other internet content.

Giguere said the setup would essentially downgrade CT-N’s video quality. Even though CT-N offered to install a high-quality connection to U-verse, he said the company would not agree to a commercial-quality broadcast for CT-N. “They refused to accept it that way,” he said. “Instead, they want to degrade our signal and make it like an Internet Web site.”

Mancuso said the proposed video quality is acceptable and the company would respond if customers had complaints. “The point is, he’s asking to be treated like a commercial channel and he’s not,” Mancuso said. “We would argue that the video quality is very much acceptable.” CT-N has posted a video comparison of public access on U-verse and cable. —>

Public access channels may be on U-verse by next month
by Luther Turmelle
New Haven Register (CT)

HARTFORD — Local public access television channels could make their debut on AT&T’s U-verse system by sometime next month, 16 months after the service was launched in the state, company officials said Friday. U-verse is AT&T’s challenge to cable television in the state. The service is operating in parts of 40 communities and 135,000 households.

John Emra, AT&T’s regional vice president of external and legislative affairs, commented following a five-hour hearing before the General Assembly’s Energy and Technology Committee on a bill that proposes to improve the availability of community television on U-verse. “We’re pushing hard,” Emra said. “It really depends on how our discussions with the different local access channels go.”

AT&T officials received a heavy dose of criticism from local public access channel advocates. The advocates say the portal, or “PEG platform” that U-verse subscribers will use to view community-based programming, will be substandard compared to what’s available from cable providers in terms of picture quality and accessibility. The PEG platform will allow U-verse subscribers to view cable access programs not just from their own town, but ultimately from communities statewide via a pull-down menu.

“New technology is supposed to enhance, not degrade,” Jennifer Evans, executive director of West Hartford Community Television, told members of the legislative committee. “Please don’t legislate a race to the bottom.” Walter Mann, executive director of North Haven Community Television, said the fear that local access television advocates have is that if House Bill 5814 is approved with its current language concerning U-verse’s PEG platform intact, cable companies will follow suit. “The (public access) channels are valuable bandwidth for the cable companies,” Mann said after testifying before lawmakers. “There’s no doubt in my mind that they would look to do that at some point if this bill became law.”

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal reminded committee members of when AT&T officials went before lawmakers last year to seek legislation that allows U-verse to be regulated differently than the cable companies. “They stressed how community access was critical and how it would be an improvement on what was on cable,” Blumenthal said. “We need to act now to insure that CT-N (Connecticut Television Network) and the other channels are at least as good or better than they are on cable.” —>

[ There are other, non-U-Verse concerns about this bill, as well. Adele Houston’s post – here in full – outlines them. – rm ]

Blogging interrupted by citizenship
by Adele Houston
GlimpsesThroughStainedGlass (CT)

[ comments allowed ]

Members of the Energy & Technology Committee:

I, …, current Chairman of the Cable Advisory Council Comcast Branford and Statewide Video Council designee; DO NOT SUPPORT HB5814, An Act Concerning Community Access Television. [I do however support Community Access TV in to the wee hours of the morning.]

As an advocate of Community Access Television for 30 years, I wish I had the opportunity to either support the repeal Public Act. 07-253 or support a bill that better defines funds and enables Community Access. Neither option is available in this short session. The outgrowth of inquiries on how to fix, what PA 07-253 broke, seems to have become an opportunity to further codify the limitations of ‘video’ services as acceptable and to dismiss some significant regulatory outcome of DPUC proceedings of the past few years.

I have submitted a list of concerns with this Bill and Pubic Act 07-253 and share this adaptation of FCC Commissioner Copps’ remarks on ‘Localism in Broadcasting’ as it could pertain to Community Access.

We are making George Orwell proud. We claim to be giving Community Access a shot in the arm — but the real effect is to reduce access to a deep link in a world wide web of glib marketing campaigns, high priced attorneys and competition for ‘the tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to see the TV of their choice for a price they can afford.

We do this upon concluding many things: 1) localism is the cornerstone of our regulation 2) communities need access to valuable, locally responsive programming, 3) there is a presumptive need for communities to have community channels, 4) the flexibility of digital technology can ‘better serve’ the needs of the underserved 5) Community Advisory Boards are not conclusively a means of addressing local needs, unless they are representatives of all segments of the community, 6) periodic consultation is appropriate, and finally, 7) modification of certain rules, policies and practices may be necessary.
Reform is needed. But to paraphrase Rep. Fontana’s recent remarks about SB492: Do we need a chain-saw to cut through the complexity of this bill? Does it establish a level playing field, provide transparency and is it responsiveness to the public? I believe not.


More than a decade has passed since PA 95-150 ensured that all communities in CT would have Community Access otherwise known as P.E.G., Public Education and Government Access. This Access legislation was unprecedented in its provision to serve all residents of our State. Communities and providers had choices to make based on each community’s definition of reasonable need. A variety of community access operations across the state were transformed. Some are thriving, most are surviving, and all are at a digital crossroads. Many are trying to balance the day-to-day demands of keeping speech free and accessible to all on shoe-string budgets while keeping one eye on the preservation of the rights of those they are trying to serve.
PA 07-253 Concerns:

* Complexity of language in new law
* Too many terms for carrier/distributors of TV
* Opportunity to update and simplify language not taken
* Complexity of multiple mandatory advisory councils and lack of clarity of roles
* Lack of community representation in community advisory selection
* Video provider is not required to provide a basic service
* Video provider exempt from interconnection/start-up costs
* Video provider exempt from provision of senior discounts,
* Video provider technology limitations may not enable retransmission from all PEG locations
* Cable opt out does not grandfather provisions of most recent franchise agreement
* All language appears to lead back to FCC minimum channel capacity and funding
* Cable Council funding remains same rate after a decade
* Lessons Learned from mandated consumer studies and surveys not leveraged
* Funds create competition between communities for funds, grant requests require greater overhead than disbursement systems
* General feel that it was written from the video provider’s point of view
* Lack of fair competition
* Lack of understanding of basic concepts of Community Access

HB5814 Concerns

* The bill is not what it was expected to be
* Overturns regulatory outcomes of months of state employee and citizen work
* Changes allow for persons with conflicts of interest to influence management of Community Access
* General feel that the bill was raised to pay off certain groups to get endorsement of U-verse limited PEG functionality
* All the issues 07-253 are not resolved and may be further aggravated.

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

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