Friday, May 29, 2009

CT - Save Local Community Cable Access!

Legislators in Hartford need to pass HB6604 - AN ACT CONCERNING PUBLIC ACCESS TELEVISION CHANNELS - without amendments.

The bill will:
1. Require all video service providers to carry community television like the other channels on their system.

2. Create a review process of all providers to ensure compliance on consumer and PEG issues.

3. Require both cable and video providers be responsible for maintenance and repair of transmission equipment.

Why is this important?
-The bill creates a level playing field for all providers and preserves community television channels.

-It preserves Congress’ intent to foster localism and diversity and prevents discriminatory actions against community television.

-It recognizes the importance of community stations to local governments and communities who rely on them to deliver local health, educational, civic and emergency information.

-With recent media consolidation, community television is one of the few outlets left for local information. Removing community television channels from view deprives local residents of information that isn’t available anywhere else.

-Community television does not need to be marginalized to ensure healthy competition.

-Stop the “race to the bottom” that has already begun as providers scramble to take bandwidth from community television and use it for their commercial services.

You may hear the following claims from AT&T, a multi-billion dollar telecommunications company and the state’s first competitive video service provider:

“This language will force us to change our technology.”
But in reality: An independent engineering report from Columbia Telecommunications Corporations found that the technology is readily available to allow delivery of PEG channels. Read the report

“We’re different. We need local insertion points.”
But in reality: The independent engineering study referenced above shows that IPTV technology offers greater, not lesser flexibility to localize channel line-ups. The only obstacle to AT&T treating PEG access like other channels on its system is its decision not to do so.

“We’re still testing. We are improving the system like we said we would.”
But in reality: AT&T’s improvements resulted in shaving a few seconds off the speed with which the system works. The process to get in and out of the channels is cumbersome and longer than a typical commercial television break. Video and audio are not always in sync and many functions like DVR recording and closed captioning cannot be passed through the system. See for yourself

"We use different technology and people just need to get used to it. People don’t like change.”
But in reality: We do not oppose AT&T using any specific technology. We believe communities deserve channels that work. If the process is so great, why not dump all the sports channels into Channel 88, all news channels into 77 and all networks into 66?

“What about the jobs in CT? AT&T will leave the state.”
But in reality: The language in this bill existed in Illinois, before they launched U-verse there. AT&T continues to expand their U-verse service in that state. According to a Chicago Tribune Letter to the Editor, AT&T claims they are in compliance with Illinois Law so there should be no issue on AT&T’s compliance in CT. Read the article here

“It’s just public access.”
Oh really? No company should be permitted to redefine what programming is important for the local community.

“Review is unnecessary.”
Oh really? AT&T states they already provide community access television in conformance with what the amendment requires, so what objection could they have to regulatory review? Let them demonstrate the quality and service level of their product to the technical staff at DPUC who can best assess it.
We all need to make sure that AT&T keeps its promises to Community Television

The legislature has already implemented the means for competitive video services to enter the Connecticut marketplace. In doing so, the legislature has given the citizens of Connecticut choices for video service that they have not had previously.

When AT&T lobbied for this new regulatory environment, community access advocates were told AT&T was committed to carrying community television. Only after PA-07-253 passed, did we begin to learn of the inferior method that community television would be handled on U-verse.

AT&T’s standard of delivery is astonishingly low, especially in the age of high definition and high-speed Internet, and compared to commercial channels on AT&T’s own system.

It is highly ironic that just when community television is most relevant as one of the few remaining local media outlets, it faces a watershed moment as to how it will be viewed in the future.

To provide a truly competitive environment in the state for video services, the citizens and consumers must be assured that they can access their local community television channels with an equal quality and service level.

HB 6604 will guarantee that the citizens will receive these essential community television channels with equal quality, clarity and performance no matter which provider they choose.
Legislators in Hartford need to pass HB6604 - AN ACT CONCERNING PUBLIC ACCESS TELEVISION CHANNELS - without amendments!

The Current amendments that are proposed should be withdrawn or defeated:
LCO No. 8473 - Cable companies could opt out of the paying the per subscriber fee - This would eliminate funding and force centers to close!

LCO No. 8428 - Restricts non profit access centers from fundraising and underwriting - That means local cable TV can't raise money!

LCO No. 8430 - Expansion of the audit process - Local Cable TV already files tax returns and annual reports with DPUC and has an annual audit by an independent firm.

These amendments would do much harm and ultimately kill community television!

Many people rely on community access to see important town meetings and it also adds greatly to public discourse. This bill is all about how public access will be delivered in the digital age. Without this bill as it is, cable stations will be virtually invisible to the average viewer. It will be difficult to get to and it will be difficult to view. How is this good for public discourse?

(H/T Jennifer Evans - WHCTV)