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CA Agency: U-verse Crimps Functionality of Some Public Channels

California’s state Division of Ratepayer Advocates has posted a consumer alert and an illustrative video on YouTube, warning consumers that they may lose functionality in viewing public, educational and government channels should they select AT&T's U-verse video service.

In the video, Mike Greer of the Ratepayer Advocates office explains that the agency posted the video to warn consumers how AT&T "segregates programming" from PEG providers. The DRA is a division within the California Public Utilities Commission.

As critics in the production community have noted, the U-verse Internet-delivered service does not treat PEG content as discrete channels, but places them on a single channel.

Content is accessed by loading a computer application onto the home TV screen, then navigating through various menus to find the desired local programming. Content is also transmitted at a lower level of quality than is seen on commercial channels.

In the YouTube video (posted Sept. 12), Greer attempts to load and view coverage of the San Francisco School Board meeting. His process takes 65 seconds.

The consumer alert on the agency's Web site notes that U-verse consumer lose the ability to watch PEG content in other languages via second audio programming features; can't automatically record content such as high school football games and can't watch community college courses in closed caption mode, among other limitations.

Also, consumers can't "channel surf," toggling between commercial programming and PEG content, the agency noted.

The state agency posted the alert so consumers will make informed decisions when deciding on a video service provider.