American Community Television Blog

Communications Daily–January 6, 2014–PEG Community Readies Efforts to Encourage Passage of CAP Act

PEG Community Readies Efforts to Encourage Passage of CAP Act

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Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Senator Edward Markey (MA) Introduce the Community Access Preservation Act (CAP Act)

December 10 , 2013

For immediate release

 

Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Senator Edward Markey (MA)

Introduce the Community Access Preservation Act (CAP Act)

 Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Senator Edward Markey (MA), jointly introduced legislation today that will help preserve Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access television channels across the country.  The introduction of the Community Access Preservation Act (the CAP Act), was hailed by American Community Television (ACT) as critical to saving hundreds of channels as well as jobs in the twenty-two states that passed statewide or state-issued franchising laws since 2005.

 “ACT has been working with these offices and many others to create a solution that will reverse the harm done to PEG access television,” said John Rocco, President of American Community Television.  “The CAP Act is critical to the survival of these important local television channels.  We are already losing channels and could lose many more if we don’t restore the intent of the Cable Act.”

 Wisconsin was amongst those hardest hit by statewide or state-issued cable franchising laws passed since 2005.  Funding for PEG channels has been eliminated in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina and Wisconsin. ACT estimates as many as five hundred PEG channels in these states are at risk of shut-down. And cable run PEG channel operations were closed in several states, to include over fifty closures in California.

“Congress, through the cable acts of 1984 and 1992, intended to make sure that local communities could have PEG access channels and funding in return for the cable operators’ use of public rights-of-way,” said Rocco.  “This legislation will restore what Congress intended and helps to secure a local community’s ability to use these channels to communicate.  We want to thank Senator Baldwin and Senator Markey for working together to save these channels.”

For over forty-five years, PEG access television has aired local government meetings, community events, educational and nonprofit programming, as well as individual programming.  It is estimated there are over 5,000 PEG access channels in the United States with over two million hours of locally produced original programming each year.

ACT worked closely with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in this advocacy effort.  The CAP Act is also supported by the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors; the Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church; Americans for the Arts and dozens of municipal leagues and local governments  around the country.

For more information on the CAP Act or PEG access television, contact John Rocco, President at john@acommunitytv.org or Bunnie Riedel, Executive Director at riedel@acommunitytv.org or by calling 410-992-4976.

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American Community Television Congratulates the City of Knoxville for Successfully Challenging AT&T

American Community Television (ACT) congratulates the City of Knoxville, Tennessee for successfully challenging AT&T in the way it delivers Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access television channels.

A statewide cable franchising law passed in 2008 requires AT&T to provide the equipment to transmit the signal of Community Television of Knoxville (CTV) to its system.  In June of 2012, two of the three encoders required to transmit the signal stopped working.  AT&T refused to fix the problem and CTV was not carried on AT&T Uverse system for six months.

The City of Knoxville intervened in the situation, appealing to the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA).  The TRA ruled that AT&T had to comply with the state law and provide the necessary equipment for the access television channels to be transmitted within 30 days or face a $1,000 a day fine.

“This is a victory for access channels across the state of Tennessee,” said John Rocco, President of American Community Television.  “And it’s a victory for all access channels that have had to deal with AT&T’s shoddy treatment of PEG television.”

For years, PEG access television operators have complained of AT&T’s treatment of PEG channels, especially the way AT&T groups all PEG channels in a region onto a single “channel 99” system.  PEG advocates have complained that the channel 99 system doesn’t treat PEG channels the same as all other channels on the Uverse system and it is inaccessible to those with vision impairments.

“Ever since AT&T stepped into the video business PEG channels have been treated shabbily,” said Rocco.  “We don’t believe that AT&T complies with the law in its treatment of PEG and it certainly discriminates against the vision impaired community.  ACT congratulates the City of Knoxville for taking on AT&T and we encourage our city partners to continue to press AT&T to deliver PEG channels the same as all other cable systems deliver PEG channels.”

American Community Television advocates and educates on behalf of Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access television channels.  To arrange an interview with Mr. Rocco or ACT Executive Director, Bunnie Riedel, please email riedel@acommunitytv.org or call 410-992-4976.

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Fighting for PEG, One State at a Time (Q&A with Bunnie Riedel, Multichannel News May 23, 2012)

Multichannel News May 2012

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PEG Advocates Remain Hopeful On CAP Act During Election Year

PEG Advocates Remain Hopeful On CAP Act During Election Year

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California Attorney General Punts to FCC on AT&T’s PEG Channel Inaccessibility to the Blind

January 4, 2012

Press Release

In what American Community Television (ACT) calls a disappointing response, the office of Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General of California, issued a letter saying that it would wait until the FCC rules on a pending petition to address the inability of the blind and vision impaired to access PEG television channels.  The letter also mentioned waiting for the FCC to evaluate the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, before it would weigh in on the issue.

“We shouldn’t have to wait,” said John Rocco, President of ACT.  “The FCC has had the petition challenging the treatment of PEG channels on its Uverse system for almost three years and they have not acted.”

“Additionally, it will be another two to three years before the FCC issues guidelines for accessibility of onscreen menus and then there will be a long lag time as the operators try to launch the technology,” said Rocco.  “The problem with the onscreen menus to access PEG channels can be fixed tomorrow.  How is it that every video operator except AT&T can deliver PEG channels the same way as other channels and make them accessible to the blind or vision impaired?”

ACT asked PEG operators and other interested persons in various states to file a letter of complaint with their state’s attorney general.  It took five months for the filer in California to receive a response.

“It’s clear that the California Attorney General’s office is confused about the technology,” said Rocco.  “The technology for AT&T to deliver PEG channels so they can be accessible to the blind and vision impaired already exists and there is no excuse for AT&T to discriminate against my community.”

American Community Television educates and advocates for PEG access television on Capitol Hill and across the country.  To contact Mr. Rocco, please call 410-992-4976 or email Bunnie Riedel, Executive Director at riedel@acommunitytv.org.

 

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American Community Television Applauds Congressional Research Service Report on Public, Educational and Government (PEG) Access Television

October 26, 2011

Press Release

A recent Congressional Research Service Report “Public, Educational and Government (PEG) Access Cable Television Channels:  Issues for Congress,” details the challenges faced by PEG access television because of statewide franchising laws and actions by the Federal Communications Commission.

“The study lays out what we have been saying all along,” said John Rocco, President of American Community Television. “PEG access television has been under attack and is in desperate need of a Congressional fix.”

The study by the CRS cites the original intent of the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 and says “These PEG provisions have been a primary vehicle for fostering in cable systems the long-standing U.S. media policy goal of localism.”  It also summarizes the benefits to PEG and localism if the Community Access Preservation Act (HR 1746) were to pass.

“The report also points out the flaws in AT&T’s U-verse delivery of PEG channels,” said Rocco.  “And it makes it quite clear that AT&T’s U-verse product is very inferior when it comes to delivering our local channels.  The CAP Act requires all video providers to deliver PEG channels without material degradation or the alteration or removal of content and data.  This would go a long way in fixing some of the problems we have with U-verse.”

The Community Access Preservation Act (CAP Act—HR1746) was introduced this year by Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and co-sponsored by Congressman Steven LaTourette (R-OH) this year.  It now has 17 co-sponsors (including LaTourette).

To contact John Rocco email john@acommunitytv.org or 410-992-4976 or contact Bunnie Riedel, Executive Director at riedel@acommunitytv.org.

Read the report here:  Congressional Research Service Report

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American Community Television Calls on CenturyLink to Clarify How it Will Deliver PEG Channels

October 10, 2011

American Community Television (ACT) has sent a letter to Glenn F. Post, III (Chief Executive Officer and President of CenturyLink) asking for clarification of how CenturyLink intends to deliver Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access television channels on its system.

“We received word that CenturyLink was considering using a platform akin to AT&T’s U-Verse platform,” said John Rocco, President of ACT.  “That is unacceptable to us as it discriminates against the blind or visually impaired.”

AT&T’s U-Verse delivers all PEG channels in a region on a single channel, channel 99.  Cable customers must navigate an on-screen menu in order to find their community, then the type of PEG channel they wish to access and then the PEG channel itself.  It is a cumbersome process and it is impossible for persons who are blind or visually impaired to access the PEG channels without assistance.

In the letter, Mr. Rocco wrote:

“Those who are blind or vision impaired have as much need to watch a PEG channel as those who are sighted.  They too are interested in city and county council meetings, educational programming, nonprofit and arts programming and individually created programming.  Indeed, I would say that there is more PEG programming directed at the blind and visually impaired than on any other television venue.  In fact, here in Charlotte where I manage the Public access channel, we offer reading services for the blind as audio under our bulletin board system.”

“In addition to my concern as an Executive Director of a Public Access channel, Access 21, I have a personal concern in that I am visually impaired and I would not be able to navigate to my own channel to monitor it,” said Mr. Rocco.

ACT orchestrated a letter writing campaign to Attorneys General in nine states where AT&T delivers U-Verse and has filed a letter of complaint with the US Attorney General’s office as well as the FCC’s Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee in advance of their November 1, 2011 hearing on the  Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA).

“We expect to receive a positive response from CenturyLink.  At the same time, we are discouraged that we have received no response from the President of AT&T, Randall Stephenson nor from AT&T’s Advisory Panel on Access & Aging,” said Rocco.  “Perhaps they believe if they ignore us the issue will go away, however, it won’t.”

To interview Mr. Rocco, email john@acommunitytv.org or Bunnie Riedel at Riedel@acommunitytv.org or call 410-992-4976.  ACT educates and advocates on behalf of Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access television.  http://acommunitytv.org

Read the letter to CEO Glen F. Post, III from John Rocco

CenturyLink Letter

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Charter to Cut Off Service to First Responders

Press Release

August 15, 2011

American Community Television (ACT) received word today that Charter Communications intends to cut off cable service to police and fire departments in small towns in Missouri, unless they now pay to receive these services.

“Cable service to municipal buildings has been provided free of charge for over thirty years as part of the franchise agreements in exchange for cable companies’ use of the public rights of way,” said John Rocco, President of ACT.  “This move by Charter demonstrates the failure of the statewide franchising laws in Missouri and across this country.”

Historically, local governments would negotiate with the cable operator for free service to municipal buildings, schools, libraries, police and fire department buildings.  The service was considered part of the obligation of cable operators as they built their plant in the public rights of way.  However, since Missouri adopted a statewide franchising regime, local governments have lost the power to regulate cable providers.

“At this time, when municipalities are barely making payroll, Charter has decided that it can make a profit on the backs of police and fire departments,” said Rocco.  “The connections are already there, the service doesn’t cost Charter anything.  We haven’t heard of other cable companies doing this, only Charter.  It’s despicable.”

ACT intends to file comments in the upcoming Video Provider Report which will be issued by the Public Service Commission citing Charter’s actions and the issue of Charter slamming the Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access channels to the 900’s.

American Community Television educates and advocates on behalf of Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access television.  To contact Mr. Rocco, please call 410-992-4976 or john@acommunitytv.org or email Bunnie Riedel, executive director, at riedel@acommunitytv.org.

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Attorneys General in Eight States Asked to Investigate U-verse PEG Inaccessibility for the Blind and Vision Impaired

July 14, 2011

Attorneys General in eight states have been asked to investigate how AT&T delivers Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access television on its U-verse platform.  The letters to the Attorneys General highlight the fact that people who are blind or vision impaired cannot access the PEG channels through the on-screen menus.

The letters stated:

“…blind and visually impaired persons are unfairly denied access to important and unique information provided by PEG channels.  It is important to note that commercial channels (i.e., broadcast networks and cable networks) are delivered to subscribers differently, and can be accessed by blind and visually impaired individuals using traditional methods and technologies.  It therefore appears that AT&T has made a conscious decision to treat PEG channels in an inferior and discriminatory manner that presents insurmountable and unnecessary barriers to the blind and visually impaired.”

“People who are blind or visually impaired shouldn’t be denied a service they are already paying for in their cable bills,” said John Rocco, President of American Community Television.  “U-verse makes it impossible to access these channels without assistance and as a person who is visually impaired, my ability to independently access PEG channels is important to me.”

The letters referred to a report released by AT&T “Accessibility, Innovation and Sustainability at AT&T.” In that report AT&T stated:

“The Human Factors Group at AT&T conducts customer research, analysis, design and usability testing to help develop products and services that are accessible, useful and usable for customers with and without disabilities. The fundamental goal of the Human Factors Lab is to learn and adjust product design in the lab from inception, rather than after a product or service is deployed to tens of millions of customers.”

The letters also referred to a May 23, 2011 ex-parte communication to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by Larry Goldberg, Director, The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH (NCAM).  In that ex-parte, Mr. Goldberg stated that he himself had tested the accessibility of the U-verse platform but did not state that he found PEG channels accessible to the blind or vision impaired.

“But even before the CVAA was passed, AT&T contracted outside experts to analyze its U-verse access services and features and put into a development cycle several

recommendations to improve the accessibility of its service. (I know because it was my non-profit organization which performed this analysis.)[1]

“We believe these two documents show that AT&T knew in advance that the PEG channels would not be accessible to the blind or visually impaired,” said Rocco.  “For that reason, we believe the Attorneys General should investigate the U-verse platform and ask why AT&T doesn’t deliver PEG channels the same way every other cable operator delivers them, as separate distinct channels.”

The states to receive these letters are California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee.

American Community Television educates and advocates on behalf of Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access television.  To contact John Rocco call 410-992-4976 or email him at john@acommunitytv.org.  Also contact Bunnie Riedel, executive director at 410-992-4976 or riedel@acommunitytv.org.


[1] 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act” (“CVAA”)

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