AT&T Replaces Knoxville, Tenn. PEG Channel’s Faulty Encoders

Cable provider acted within 10 days of state regulator’s order
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AT&T, the provider of the cable television service U-Verse in Tennessee, has complied with a state regulator’s requirement to replace faulty encoder equipment that has kept both of Knoxville’s government and public access channels off the air since the summer of 2012.

On Jan. 17, 2013 AT&T replaced the two encoders and “they are working fine,” David Vogel, the general manager of Knoxville Community Television, told Government Video.

In June 2012, the first of two encoders AT&T supplied to CTV failed halting the PEG channel’s broadcasts over U-Verse, according to a complaint filed with the Tennessee Regulatory Authority by the City of Knoxville. The second encoder to stop working did so in August, Vogel said

“They died. They went from working fine for over two years, and then they just died,” he said. Without those encoders, the government and public access channels did not broadcast. “Those who receive their cable from AT&T didn’t get a signal,” he said.

AT&T took the position that it was not responsible for the encoders and that it had complied with the requirements of the Tennessee Competitive Cable and Video Services Act of 2008 “because it provided CTV with the equipment necessary to transmit PEG signals to AT&T…along with a 90-day warranty on that equipment,” therefore “it is no longer obligated to bear the expense of transmission of the PEG channels,” according to the City of Knoxville’s complaint.

On Jan. 7, 2013 the TRA ruled, “AT&T is under a continuing duty to provide working alteration equipment to the local governments and has not done so,” it is in “violation of the PEG requirements.” Therefore, “AT&T must repair or replace the defective encoding equipment no later than 30 days” of the date of the ruling, or the company will be fined $1,000 per day up to $10,000, TRA said.

While AT&T had to replace the encoders for CTV, the same might not be true in other states, according to Vogel. If PEG channels in other states face similar situations, they need to contact their legal departments to determine their options, because the decision to take legal action or not depends on state laws, Vogel said. “In Tennessee the law covers public access centers across the state and as these encoders fail, AT&T will be required to repair or replace them. But those requirements are different from state-to-state,” he said.