Tennessee Regulator To AT&T U-verse: Fix PEG Gear

A Tennessee regulatory authority has told AT&T to supply working equipment ASAP so U-verse customers can see PEG channels.

American Community Television, which advocates on behalf of public, education and government channel programmers, was celebrating a victory Wednesday (Jan. 9)  in the PEG community's effort to make sure viewers can access those public, educational and government channels.

The Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) ruled that AT&T has 30 days (from Jan. 7) to provide the equipment necessary to view the channels over its U-verse video service.

A statewide franchising law requires AT&T to provide the requisite equipment. But the majority of AT&T-supplied encoders stopped working in June and AT&T did not replace them, according to Community Television of Knoxvillle, so the programming has not been accessible on U-verse for the past six months.

After the city of Knoxville appealed to the TRA, with support from a number of other Tennessee cities and towns, TRA sided with the PEG folks and AT&T has been given 30 days after which it could be fined up to $1,000 a day for noncompliance.

"AT&T is under a continuing duty to provide working alteration equipment to the local governments and has not done so," the TRA decision read, "therefore, [we] find that a violation of the PEG requirements has occurred. AT&T must be given a reasonable period of time to come into compliance; therefore, I move that AT&T must repair or replace the defective encoding equipment no later than 30 days from today's date."

AT&T had argued that it was required by the law to supply the equipment, but not to repair it once it have been provided.

“This is a victory for access channels across the state of Tennessee,” John Rocco, president of American Community Television, said in in a statement. David Vogel, who runs Community Television of Knoxville, agreed, saying that others are starting to have issues with the encoders. He added: "We have never had a problem with Comcast or Charter," he said, citing other cable operators also required to carry the PEG channels. "They repair their equipment."

Vogel said he has talked with an AT&T representative who said the equipment will be replaced. AT&T had not responded to a request for confirmation at press time. Vogel credited the city of Knoxville with pursuing the claim at the TRA and said the order also will benefit other PEG programmers dealing with AT&T in Tennessee.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.