Tuesday, May 29, 2007
We will have a meeting on Monday, June 4th at 4pm with Sonny Torres, chief of staff for San Antonio City Council person Delicia Herrera in District 6. District 6 is in the west/northwest sides of San Antonio. The meeting will be at the office at Alamo Downs office Park.
Update, this meeting did not happen due to confusion on appt. time. Another one will be scheduled.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
by Charles N. Wheeler III
"When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled."
In the legislative battle now under way between two heavyweight industries — the telephone companies and the cable television providers — what's at risk of getting trampled is the public interest.
The focus of the intense struggle is a telecom-backed measure that would strip franchising control from local governments and do away with most regulation for new entrants into the lucrative field of providing wired video service, long dominated by cable companies. As cable providers have started to offer telephone service, though, traditional phone companies have begun fighting back with plans for video over their landlines.
Led by AT&T, the phone companies argue that Illinois consumers are being gouged by the near-monopoly on video that cable companies like Comcast now enjoy, a competitive advantage owing in part to the need for would-be video providers to negotiate franchise agreements with every locality they wish to serve.
Under the pending legislation, providers no longer would have to deal with city officials. Instead, they could seek authorization from the Illinois Commerce Commission to provide video wherever they choose. Proponents say allowing the telecoms unfettered access to local markets will unleash competition that will drive down prices, attract more investment to Illinois and create thousands of new, high-tech jobs.
The cable industry responds, quite accurately, that nothing now prevents AT&T, Verizon or other telephone companies from competing for the video business under the existing rules by negotiating the same sort of franchise agreements that cable providers have with cities and villages across the state. The telecom proposal, the cable guys say, is merely a way for Ma Bell's offspring to avoid locally set service standards and to serve only those neighborhoods most likely to sign up for the most-expensive packages with lots of bells and whistles.
Fearful of being caught underfoot are the folks who run the community-based, public, educational and government channels, referred to as PEGs. They typically broadcast such fare as school board meetings, city council sessions, community arts events and educational programming.
Equally concerned are local government officials, who worry about losing control over the public rights of way in their communities and losing their ability to set service standards for the new video providers, including requiring that service be offered throughout the community.
Lawmakers face a tough challenge in sorting out fact from the public relations spin employed by the competing corporate interests. A key point to remember, though, is that neither the telecoms nor the cable companies should be expected to have the public interest at heart. After all, big corporations are supposed to make as much money as possible for shareholders. Looking out for the little guy — John Q. Public — is government's job, and it should be a top priority for elected officials.
To his credit, the telecom bill's chief sponsor, Rep. James Brosnahan, an Oak Lawn Democrat, already has removed some of the measure's more troublesome points and has been negotiating with the community groups and local officials in an effort to allay some of their other concerns.
To safeguard the public interest, however, lawmakers should focus on a couple of critical issues:
• Protecting the existing network of public access channels, including encouraging their future growth. Telecom allies profess their commitment to public access, citing a provision of the measure that earmarks 1 percent of receipts to underwrite PEGs. But public access stations in some communities enjoy higher levels of funding, which would be slashed by a statewide 1 percent cap.
Moreover, cable providers now foot the bill for hooking up the public access stations to their systems and carry the signal for free. In contrast, AT&T would like PEGs to buy the equipment needed to make their signal compatible with the phone company's technology, then pay AT&T for carrying it. And the phone company initially planned to provide a lower quality picture for PEGs — akin to a YouTube image in a computer window — rather than the full-screen TV picture viewers expect.
Advocates argue, correctly, that new entrants into video service should be required to play by the same public access rules as cable providers. That means no funding cuts, no freeze on future PEGs, no new carriage charges and no second-rate picture quality.
• Assuring that local governments maintain control over the use of public property by private business. Even if one accepts the premise that the state should issue video licenses to all comers, that's no reason to allow the telecoms to stick the refrigerator-size boxes needed for their technology where they see fit. Local regulation of equipment placement is important for public safety — think clear sight lines at intersections.
Local officials also generally have done a good job of requiring cable providers to offer service to everyone within the franchise area, thus avoiding so-called "cherry picking" in which only affluent, or demographically desirable, neighborhoods are covered. The telecoms say they want everyone for a customer, but mandating 100 percent build-out is bad business practice. At the least, though, lawmakers should set a goal of universal build-out, with reporting and enforcement provisions to stop technological redlining.
Similarly, the legislation sets out demanding standards for consumer protection, like resolving billing disputes, requiring prompt service calls and barring excessive fees, the familiar consumer headaches. All commendable, but equally necessary is oversight and enforcement, somewhere an aggrieved customer can complain, short of suing the provider, and get a fair shake. Perhaps the ICC's role could be expanded beyond mere pro forma license issuance; even better, the attorney general could be given the job.
The ultimate goal in the telecommunications war is to become a customer's sole provider of video, telephone and broadband Internet service. Lawmakers should watch out for the broader public interest along the way.
Charles N. Wheeler III is director of the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Illinois Issues, May 2007
Go to Illinois Issues blog at http://illinoisissuesblog.blogspot.com/
Friday, May 18, 2007
Short video of our tour of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Media. They have a very nice set up, and it is not being used.Â They might be a possibility for a temporary studio space. This was shot with a chip off a camera, not a video camera.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Our next meeting with a San Antonio City Council member is Monday, May 14th with San Antonio City Councilman Roland Gutierrez District 3 councilman. District 3 is in the Southside. The meeting is to lobby for a new community media access center. 1:30pm. Tel 534-1300.
Update: We met with the Staff of councilmen Gutierrez at City Base on the Southside. We gave them the presentation and they gave us some feedback. We did find that there were some misconceptions with the city staff as to what had happened to public access (they had the impression we were using Maverick Studios), so this gave us an opportunity to educate them on the history of public access in San Antonio and the situation we find ourselves in now.
Then Wednesday, May 16th, our meeting is with San Antonio City Council member Art Hall of District 8 at 9:30am. District 8 is in the Northwest side of town.Tel 207-7086.
Update. We met with Councilman Hall and one of his staff members downtown and had a short 15 minute meeting. He was very supportive but did tell us that funding directly from the general fund would be a very hard sell to the City Council and that we would need to have a good detailed presentation to be able to convince them. He also mentioned that the City Council was basically split in half with one half being supportive of Public Access and the other half not being that supportive. This is why it is important that we meet with City Council members and their staff to give them better insight into who we are as a public access community and the benefits of public access.
Friday, May 11, 2007
This is a recent article by Jennifer Harris, of the Center for Digital Democracy. It mentions an issue of concern in San Antonio.
The Universe According to AT&T’s U-verse
By: Jennifer Harris
AT&T's leap into the converged world is illustrated in its two-pronged IPTV approach, Homezone and U-verse. IPTV is a system that enables digital television sets to be programmed using the more personalized data delivery method of the Internet – Internet Protocol.
U-verse, as explained by Joe Laszlo of JupiterKagan Research, is considered "the end-game" for AT&T. U-verse is similar to a cable-like video service offered by way of phone lines and to only those privileged enough to have fiber in their neighborhoods. Homezone, a hybrid satellite/IPTV service offered in conjunction with Dish Network, is a second-tier option offered to customers who don't want to wait (or may never see) fiber optic appear in their city. The cities able to yield the highest return on investment for the pricey deployment of fiber cables will get services first, while other communities remain on the back-burner. AT&T’s model of preferential treatment extends throughout the formation of their IPTV service, stepping up quality for those with deep pockets and standing aside for those without. By building a new media system that perpetuates the anti-competitive communications market and neglects the public interest, AT&T delivers a service to customers that falls short of its connective and innovative potential.
Traditional media is inevitably shifting from being a source primarily for entertainment to becoming a networked system that connects households inextricably to their educational, civic, health and buying needs. New media services will no longer be classified as stand-alone luxuries, because convergence is melding voice, video and data into singular systems essential for information sharing and communications. IPTV, and other new media services, will become staples in American households (much like electricity or telephone service) and become necessities in the information age. As AT&T sets the stage for an IPTV service that plays favorites between the haves and have-nots, it is setting in motion a system that restricts information, and allocates it only to the wealthy and the well-connected. The fiber lines being laid are dividing more than just parts of a city; AT&T is creating a lopsided playing field that will ultimately leave citizens and communities out of countless opportunities for advancement and connectivity.
When AT&T refused to disclose their build-out plans in the
Unwilling to negotiate under local franchising authority and abide by the rules set for cable providers, AT&T eventually took the city of Geneva to court (many other cities have also been dragged into similar legal battles: Milwaukee, WI, Walnut Creek & Livermore, CA, Naperville, IL and multiple Chicago suburbs). Ralph Ballart, former vice president of broadband at SBC Laboratories commented that "If we are going to build the IP (Internet Protocol) pipe, we want all the revenue streams." However, AT&T cannot guarantee that all parts of a community that allow the company to build the IP pipe will ultimately receive AT&T’s IP services. When AT&T officials are questioned specifically about obligations to build out services, they claim that U-verse cannot be classified as either a cable or telecommunications service; therefore previous rules do not apply.
If U-verse is neither accountable for previous obligations nor responsible in adhering to principles guiding future innovation, then how can customers expect to benefit from services that don’t have to truly serve them? AT&T, as a stipulation to their $86 billion merger with BellSouth, agreed to abide by a set of net neutrality principles, or guidelines that the company will not favor one set of online content above others. However the guidelines distinctly exclude AT&T’s “end game”, U-verse. If U-verse is truly where the buck stops then as David Isenberg recognizes “we have provided AT&T/[BellSouth] the means to render the proposed Network Neutrality condition on the merger violable, and…so weak as to be meaningless”. By discriminating against certain types of content, U-verse will be able to set the hierarchy – dictating which content is most valuable for you and your family.
Pay for Digital Play
AT&T is not only seeking to control broadband on the user end, but to parcel it out to preferred content providers as well. AT&T is taking harmful steps to ensure that non-commercial television has no future on IPTV sets. Consumers should not expect to see community-focused, noncommercial programming in the world of U-verse…at least not clearly.
A suspicious request made in an agreement between AT&T and San Antonio asked that PEG access centers send all programming to the provider at rates that would clearly degrade the content; ultimately making the community channels unwatchable to all viewers.
As AT&T has shifted into the new media environment, they have made it very clear that they want to leave the public’s interests out of the big IPTV picture. AT&T is rolling out a service that is perpetually cutting corners – exploiting converging technologies and dodging local oversight. AT&T is taking measured and calculated steps that trim the edges off of previous obligations to serve communities.
The infrastructure for a powerful, interactive communications system deserves to be built on a model that will give back to communities exponentially. A U-verse system that is responsive to the public interest would open windows in communities: enhancing distance learning programs in disadvantaged school systems, generating economic potential in rural and urban areas by offering career advancement in IT and media fields, and by connecting families to valuable health and medical care not offered locally. However, U-verse amounts to a universe of untapped possibility. AT&T could construct a U-verse environment that works toward a long-term vision instead of being based around fleeting profits, but in AT&T’s U-verse - advertisers mean the world.
Communications and Public Affairs
- Documents showing Time Warner, Grande, AT&T, and any other PEG vendor payments processed, and where funds were allocated, by COSA in 2006 (any monies, either 1% payments or 5% franchise fees, received or disbursed for PEG programming since 5.15.06, including any funds previously placed in escrow by Time Warner)
- A copy of the $1.8M proposal received by COSA from Time Warner by December 2005 (as referenced in “COSA PEG Transition” power point presentation 12.15.05)
- Copies of the bids evaluated by COSA from “seven different companies” to supply equipment and installation for the PEG channels (as referenced in “COSA PEG Transition” power point presentation 2.2.06)
These are follow-ups to my last request, which was “the itemized budget and all memos, documents, and correspondence related to the reinstatement of Public Access Digital Channel 20.” I apologize for the confusing request, and appreciate the care and concern exhibited by the COSA Attorney staff John Danner and Gabriel Garcia in responding to my requests. Thank you, again and in advance, for your service, time and attention.
Attorney General’s Office
In OR2007-00603, your office (AG) held COSA responsible for releasing various documents related to PEG programming. On March 2, I received copies of nine checks paid to COSA, as well as what looks like a “working copy” of a PEG budget. I will spare you those enclosures, seeing as you previously reviewed them. Although informative, the COSA release does not fulfill the terms of your ruling.
One of the things that have been brought to light during the controversies surrounding the implementation of the Texas State Cable Franchising Bill, commonly referred to as SB5, is the adversarial position the Public is placed in when trying to negotiate where funds from the cable franchise fees should be spent. Who should be making those decisions? The City, the citizens of that city, State Government, Federal Government, neither or all of the above?
There is a conflict of interest because City Government wants to have full use of the funds in any way they see fit, and the public, who are the users/consumers of PEG (Public Access, Educational, Government), are left in a position of hoping and praying they will receive some of those benefits in the area of Public Access and the Educational channels, as opposed to funds being spent primarily on the Government part of PEG.
In trying to just get information from the City of
1) How much in cable franchise fees have been received by the City since the state franchising law went into effect.
2) An accounting of how the funds have so far been spent and if they have not been spent, are they being held in a fund somewhere or have they evaporated into the general fund?
The information we have acquired over the past year and a half has been by reviewing weekly City Council agendas, reviewing ordinances and requests for approvals of funding on PEG related matters and checking newspaper articles. E-mails and phone calls we send to City staff mostly go unanswered. We’ve since stopped trying to ask for much information from them. The last time we were able to actually talk to City staff was in the meeting the City of
However, whenever negative publicity appears in the newspapers we then do get calls, and really quick.
Since about September 2006, Chuck Robinson, a volunteer with the Texas Media Empowerment Project in
When Chuck asked for a budget for expenditures he was asked, “What do you mean by a budget?” Instead of answers we get questions. The copies of the franchise fee checks (funds coming in) were provided, and we’re talking millions in checks being received, but the expense side has not. There is not enough transparency here.
The answer we get when we ask when will some of the franchise fee funds be used towards re-establishing a production facility (which we lost as well when the channel went black in January 2006) is a vague “ We will be considering that in the future.” We heard that response at the last meeting on April 10, 2007.
That same response was given in a meeting held on May 2006, at the
Meanwhile the franchising fees are rolling in to the City without delay. Above are copies of the letters submitted to the City of San Antonio, requesting documentation of income/expenditures and the response from the Texas State Attorney General’s office concerning that request. Others in our community are attempting to get this information as well. All we can say is, what is going on and why all the cloak and daggers?
We don't want to really believe the noise we hear that AT&T is trying to dismantle PEG with the State Cable Franchise Laws they are lobbying for all across America. However actions always speak louder than words, and as the saying goes, the silence is deafening.
Media Activists and Public Access Producers from San Antonio and Austin met with City Officials on April 10, 2007 to discuss a request to test signal compatability with AT&T U-verse. San Antonio is the first city impacted by a state-wide cable franchising bill that passed in the summer of 2005. There is confusion as to interpretation of the bill. Part 3. Please note this is a 20 minute video and may take some time to load.
Part 2 of video of meeting on April 10, 2007, by San Antonio Media Activists, Public Access Producers and officials from the City of San Antonio. Concerns are being raised about compatibility issues and the effects of the statewide franchising bill that was passed in Texas in 2005.
Please note this is a 30 minute video and may take some time to load depending on your computer.
Video of meeting on April 10, 2007, by San Antonio Media Activists, Public Access Producers and officials from the City of San Antonio. Concerns are being raised about compatibility issues and the effects of the statewide franchising bill that was passed in Texas in 2005.
Please note this is a 30 minute video and may take some time to load depending on your computer.
Public Access Producers in
A threatening item is on the Agenda for the San Antonio City Council meeting on April 5, 2007. Below is a copy of the agenda item. Of note is the part of Alternatives. This request for action basically states that if the AT&T U-Verse test fails, that AT&T should not be required to carry the Public Access, Governmental, or Educational channels (PEG for short), And THAT THE OTHER CABLE COMPANIES SHOULD NOT BE REQUIRED TO AS WELL, which would kill public access. Is this how AT&T is trying to get out of having to carry the public access channels? Inquiring minds want to know. What we have found out about how U-Verse really works can be reviewed in these links and in this Wall Street Journal Article from February 2007.
Agenda Item # 23
DEPARTMENT HEAD: Ben Gorzell
COUNCIL DISTRICT(S) IMPACTED:
This ordinance authorizes an agreement with AT&T Texas to conduct first office application "FOA" for the purposes of AT&T to carry the City's Public, Education and Government (PEG) programming on its U-Verse TV Service.
AT&T and the City of
In the Summer of 2006, AT&T Texas began testing the delivery of IPTV. The City has the right to request that its community (PEG) channels be carried on its system. Testing is required because the deliverly of service is different than that of our current cable operators. The City and AT&T have identified a single point of demarcation to simplify and reduce the cost of implementation.
What is the hell that suppose to mean??????????????????
That they can kill PEG??????????(edited in)
Press conference held in October 2006 in San Antonio Texas concerning Media Consolidation and how it hurts local communities. Introduction by DeAnne Cuellar of Texas Media Empowerment followed by local producer Patsy Robles of 411 Productions.The FCC is considering changing the media ownership rules to benefit the big media companies. The website Public Interest Advocate is gathering comments to send to the FCC.
Press conference held in October 2006 in San Antonio Texas concerning Media Consolidation and how it hurts local communities. Commentary by Hugh Henry, local public access producer.
The FCC is considering changing the media ownership rules to benefit the big media companies. The website Public Interest Advocate is gathering comments to send to the FCC.
Ann Toback, Assistant Executive Director for the Writers Guild of America, gives remarks at the FCC hearing in Austin Texas in Sept 2006. The FCC is currently looking at the rules on media ownership. These rules determine how many radio, TV and newspapers one company can own in one city. The Media companies want these rules relaxed so they can own more stations/newspapers in the same city. Ms. Toback talks about the negative effects on newsrooms by the consolidation of television news stations. Ms. Toback cites examples in New York and Los Angeles. To file a complaint/comment on this issue with the FCC, go to fcc.gov
Produced by 411 Productions
FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein gives opening remarks at the FCC hearing in Austin Texas in Sept 2006. The FCC is currently looking at the rules on media ownership. These rules determine how many radio, tv and newspapers one company can own in one city. The public has an opportunity to speak out against further consolidation and to speak out about localism, that local people, issues, concerns are covered by your local media. To file a complaint/comment on this issue, go to fcc.gov .
Produced by 411 Productions
Chuck Robinson, who volunteers with the Texas Media Empowerment Project in San Antonio, Texas, gives the FCC a piece of his mind. The FCC is currently looking at the rules on media ownership and conducting hearings around the country in the U.S. . These rules determine how many radio, TV and newspapers one company can own in one city. Produced by 411 Productions.
Deanne Cuellar, who heads the Texas Media Empowerment Project gives the FCC a quick rundown of her experiences with Big Media, such as Clear Channel, Time Warner and San Antonio Express News, at the localism hearing in Austin TX in September 2006. Deanne works with the Texas Media Empowerment Project in San Antonio on issues affecting the media. She is also a publicist. www.texasmep.org
Patsy Robles, from 411 Productions, at the FCC Hearing in Austin Texas,
in September 2006 to speak about the fiasco that happened to Public Access Television in Texas due to Texas Senate Bill 5 and further damage that will be caused nationally by the COPE bill. The hearing was on the issue of localism, which concerns whether or not local people and issues are reflected in your local media such as tv, radio and `newspapers. The FCC is currently looking at the rules of media ownership. This clip is part 2 of her speech at the hearing.
Patsy Robles, from 411 Productions, at the FCC Hearing in Austin Texas,
in September 2006 to speak about the fiasco that happened to Public Access
Television in Texas due to Texas Senate Bill 5 and further damage that will be caused nationally by the COPE bill. The hearing was on the issue of localism, which concerns whether or not local people and issues are reflected in your local media such as tv, radio and `newspapers. The FCC is currently looking at the rules of media ownership.
Hear commentary from Patsy Robles, Executive Producer for 411 Productions, about the fight in the U.S. to keep Public Access Television on the air. 411 Productions and the 411 Show is a non-profit organization that teaches youth how to produce their own media content. The shows air on cable public access television and as a videoblog.
Produced by 411 Productions
And Media Access for All
This is our blog for this new organization born from the attack on Public Access Television in
Check our blog to find out what the latest activity is and will be over the next months and years as we work to restore, revitalize and strengthen public access television and other forms of public media in Texas and coordinate with other organizations across the country. This issue is important to everyone across the U.S. San Antonio Texas was one of the 1st cities in the United States to be adversely affected by the statewide cable franchising bills. Other states have and/or will follow.We are currently working to ensure that we do not los the public access channel in San Antonio, Texas, build a new community media center for the public to use and replace the production studio we lost in December 2005. We are also active in recruiting and training new producers who wish to produce media for television, internet and independent film, using community media resources. Join us in our effort to preserve community media in Texas!