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Tennessee Municipalities Allege Internet Provider Shirking PEG Commitment

Complaint alleges AT&T Tennessee failed to transmit PEG channels

Two Tennessee municipalities have filed complaints with the state regulator alleging an Internet broadcaster has failed to transmit public, education and government (PEG) channels as prescribed by state law.

On July 24, 2012, Knoxville, Tenn. and on Aug. 15, 2012, Knox County filed “letters of formal complaint” with the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) against BellSouth Telecommunications, LLC, which is a company of AT&T serving the southeastern United States. The complaint alleges “AT&T is in violation of” the Tennessee Competitive Cable and Video Services Act of 2008 (CCVSA) for failing to transmit Knoxville and Knox County’s PEG channels.

Those channels include Community Televison of Knoxville (CTV) which provides live, gavel-to-gavel coverage of many of the local government meetings, and Knox County Schools which operates KCS-TV, an education channel that is focused on school activities and school system administration.

AT&T answered each allegation on Aug. 24, 2012 and Sept. 12, 2012, and in each reply AT&T says “it has fulfilled its statutory duty to provide certain PEG equipment and has not subsequent or ongoing obligation to repair, maintain or replace such equipment,” says a TRA notice of briefing schedule that was issued to the parties on Sept. 13, 2012.

In June 2010, AT&T Tennessee began carrying Knoxville and Knox County PEG programming on AT&T “U-verse TV” Channel 99. AT&T U-verse is a brand of “triple-play” telecommunications services available in 22 states. Launched June 26, 2006, U-verse includes high-speed Internet, Internet protocol (IP) telephone and IP television services.

Under the CCVSA, a holder of a state-issued certificate of franchise authority must transmit a PEG channel signal from each PEG channel programmer’s local origination point “at the holder’s expense, such expense to include any equipment necessary”for the holder to transmit the signal from PEG channels activated as of July 1, 2008, if the origination point is in the holder’s service area. The holder of a state-issued certificate of franchise authority is responsible for providing the transmission and the equipment for carrying out that transmission, according to the CCVSA.

Supporters of the Knoxville and Knox County say AT&T is responsible for providing the equipment to transmit the PEG channel(s) signal to the U-verse system, and functioning equipment is necessary to transmit the PEG channels’ signal to the U-verse system, and per the CCVSA, it is AT&T’s obligation to provide such at its expense.

The TRA brief notification says the parties shall be afforded an opportunity to submit briefs on the issues raised, “including the proper interpretation of the requirements” in the CCVSA. The deadline for filing initial briefs is 2 p.m., Sept. 28, 2012, and the deadline for reply briefs is 2 p.m. Oct. 12, 2012. Oral arguments are scheduled for Nov. 7, 2012.