With great fanfare, At&T has launched its U-verse service in Northwest Arkansas - two years after first promising it to us. As many will recall, the community - much to At&T’s consternation, I suspect - insisted on having input into the service.
In fact, the Fayetteville Telecomm Board held a public forum, with members of AT&T, TB members, Cable Administrator Marvin Hilton, representatives from Community Access Television, and members of the public participating.
Questions for the meeting were gathered from a wide range of sources. Later, an agreement of sorts seemed to hammered out, as one can see from reading the Northwest Arkansas Times this morning:
AT&T claimed its service would not fall under the same category as its rival provider Cox Communications because it provides services via the Internet and not cable lines. There was also some concern that U-verse would not make public education and government channels available in their lowest tier of programming.
Williams said a contract was developed that was very similar to the one the city had with Cox, meaning AT&T agreed to pay a 5-percent franchise fee and agreed to host the public education and government channels on the lowest tier.
Except for this:
The service began today, and no PEG service is offered to the customers. Even more to the point, no one from AT&T seems to have even stepped into the PEG Center to talk to them about installing the required equipment so that the channels can be offered on U-verse.
Well, maybe they forgot. Or perhaps they had no intention of following through on the agreement in the first place?
Maybe next time before a reporter writes a glowing piece about AT&T, they might actually, oh, I don’t know, call to around to see if they really are offering what they say they are?
It’s not like the PEG Center is a long-distance call.
444-3434 - Government Channel
444-3433 - Community Access Television
Quote of the Day
If it weren't for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of of us wouldn't get any exercise at all. - comedian Joey Adams
Actually, it turns out that other public access systems may be having with AT&T’s U-verse as well . . .
Honestly, this stuff isn’t all that hard to find - if you look beyond self-congratulatory press releases.
Illinois AG's Office Examining U-Verse’’s PEG Programming
Critics Complain About Access, Delivery Method, Quality
By Linda Haugsted – Multichannel News, 1/7/2009 9:14:00 AM
Responding to complaints from public-access producers and city officials, the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is examining public access programming on AT&T's U-verse service to determine whether the delivery method somehow violates state law.
AT&T said it believes in and is serious about meeting its obligations to provide PEG and is supporting its expansion using the latest technology that is dramatically increasing access and is making this happen in accordance with the letter and the spirit of state law.
Producers have complained about public-access programming on the Internet-protocol-delivered service since the day it debuted. AT&T aggregates all local programming on a region onto a single channel. Viewers enter a Webpage listing all possible content providers, and must look for the desired programmer, wait for content from that source to load, then pick from various programs.
Critics say it can take as long as a minute for content to load, adding that the delivery method disables such technology as second audio programming; and prevents channel surfing. A viewer must "back out" of the public-access page before they can view commercial content.
Critics also contend that the public-access streams are not of the same signal quality as commercial channels delivered by AT&T, critics add. T&T counters that use of a single channel, such as channel 99, is "absolutely acceptable under state law" for PEG programming. This placement was discussed during the legislative process with the company explaining that PEG would be placed in this centralized location, serving to expand PEG programming delivery beyond traditional city boundaries, the company added.
Illinois is not the only state indicating concern about U-verse PEG programming: the California Public Utilities Commission created a video on YouTube to demonstrate issues with that programming, advising consumers to consider these factors when mulling whether to subscribe to AT&T's video service.
No time line has been set for the Illinois inquiry.