Protecting the public’s channels

KUC News

Multichannel News Reports on Illinois Attorney General Investigation

January 7, 2009

Illinois AG's Office Examining U-Verse's PEG Programming; Critics Complain About Access, Delivery Method, Quality

By Linda Haugsted, Multichannel News

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 Web page 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.

Critcis also contend that the public-access streams are not of the same signal quality as commercial channels delivered by AT&T, critics add.

AT&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 timeline has been set for the Illinois inquiry.