Protecting the public’s channels

KUC News

AT&T's PEG System Fails to Comply with Illinois Law

August 7, 2008

Recently, Keep Us Connected circulated Loyola University professor Dr. Diane Schiller's Chicago Tribune letter to the editor on the sub-par treatment of public, educational and government (PEG) programming on AT&T's U-Verse system. Over the past two decades, Dr. Schiller and her colleagues have demonstrated the public benefit of community access through Countdown, a live, call-in math instruction program for elementary school students.

Dr. Schiller fears those years of work will be undermined with the deployment of AT&T's inferior U-Verse system. In her letter to the Tribune, Dr. Schiller says:

"AT&T's planned system for PEG programs like Countdown fails the test by removing those programs from its television line-up. PEG programs will be hard to find, channel surfing between commercial channels and PEG channels won't work, and channel listings for programs like Countdown will disappear. It doesn't take an educator to know that "out of sight" can easily become "out of mind."

In response, AT&T Illinois President Paul La Schiazza claims, "All PEG content is easily found on U-verse's Channel 99, which is absolutely acceptable under state law..."

While AT& T Illinois President Paul La Schiazza publicly dismisses criticisms of U-Verse, other company representatives have repeatedly acknowledged deficiencies in the system, both in local and national demonstrations of the PEG product.

Contrary to La Schiazza's assertion, it is clear the U-Verse system fails to comply with Illinois law.

The law says:

Companies operating under Illinois' Cable and Video Franchise law of 2007 "shall provide to subscribers public, educational and government access channel capacity at equivalent visual and audio quality and equivalent functionality, from the viewing perspective of the subscriber, to that of commercial channels carried on the [provider]'s basic cable or video service offerings..."

PEG channels on AT&T's U-Verse system:

  • are cumbersome to find and slower to load than commercial channels
  • have inferior picture and audio quality compared to commercial channels
  • cannot support closed captioning
  • cannot support second audio programming
  • are incompatible with programmed recording devices like Tivo
  • are excluded from program guides and listings 

The law says:

Public, education and government channels shall all be carried on the holder's basic cable or video service offerings or tiers. Basic cable or video service is defined as "any cable of video service offering or tier which includes the retransmission of local television broadcast signals."

AT&T's U-Verse system:
Segregates PEG channels from all other channels by moving PEG channels to a web-like application under the generic heading "Channel 99." PEG channels will not be transmitted in the same way as local television broadcast signals.

The law says:
"The holder shall provide a listing of public, education and government channels on channel cards and menus provided to subscribers in a manner equivalent to other channels..."

AT&T's U-Verse system:
Strips away PEG channel identity, only listing a generic Channel 99 on channel cards. Local residents looking for PEG channels are forced to scroll through a menu of dozens of PEG channels from the entire region in order to find what they are looking for.

The law says:
"...the [provider] shall provide a listing of public, educational, and government programming on its electronic program guide if such a guide is utilized by the holder."

AT&T's U-Verse system:
Does not list PEG programming on its electronic program guide.

Keep Us Connected urges you to write the Illinois Attorney General to report AT&T's lack of compliance with Illinois law in your community.