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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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June 13, 2008 6:16 PM

What Can PEG 2.0 Mean in the 21st Century?

PEG channels. Public access. Community TV. While all feature slightly different definitions, they all stem from the same idea: to enable more robust local community communication.

But like the TV medium that distributes this content, the future of local media is both uncertain and filled with unlimited promise. As I've written before, TV isn't necessarily the best distribution mechanism for local media; it's a broadcast technology being used to try and reach a narrowcast audience.

But what could PEG 2.0 mean in the 21st century? If you were given the opportunity to build a new system from the ground up in an environment rich with bandwidth, what would you do?

That's exactly the question that was posed to me yesterday by John St. Julien, a well-known pot stirrer and thought leader in Lafayette, LA, where the local utility is building a full fiber network. He's been asked to help figure out what should be done, and he came to me for advice.

The first thing I thought was how exciting a challenge this is given the nature of the opportunity. The unfortunate truth is that in most communities PEG channels are seen as a burden by the incumbent network operator, something they're forced to do in order to secure franchise agreements. In this case, though, the network operator is the local utility, and while their budget is far from overwhelming, their intent is quite simply to do everything they can to maximize the positive societal impact of the network they're putting into place.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that once built, the LUS network will have all the bandwidth a PEG system could ever want. As covered previously, every user on the network will have access to a symmetrical 100Mbps intranet.

While not an expert in the details of technology to make this happen, I wanted to share some of my initial thoughts of what PEG 2.0 can mean in a community with plenty of bandwidth and a network operator eager to cater to the needs of its constituents.

- Let PEG onto the intranet. When last I talked with Terry Huvall, the head of LUS, he shared that at least initially the intranet would be limited to consumers and small businesses. As local media is created by consumers I'm hopeful this would already be covered, but if not then this is an essential first step in order to allow for producers to reach consumers without any constraints on bandwidth.

- Enable multicast on the network. As I wrote about here, it's my understanding network operators can enable multicast on their network thereby empowering all of their users to be able to stream live from anywhere on their network to an audience of any size. This would mean that video from any live event could be made available to the community to watch without any great expense or complexity.

- Find a way for video to reach all screens. A primary part of this would be to get Internet video onto the TV through LUS's set-top boxes, but it also might include making sure video can be viewed on a cell phone.

- Get some storage for on-demand playback. Assuming you can get IP video onto the TV, then forgo the need for LUS to put the channels into their traditional TV headend and instead focus on getting some basic IP video storage that can be used to deliver video to all screens. I'm not sure exactly what's needed, but I do know that by doing this it should save some hassle while simultaneously improving functionality.

- Allow all content producers to make their video available in one fashion or another. There'll almost certainly have to be some sort of filter in order to avoid offensive content making it into the system, but the key is to find a way to not only embrace all current local producers but also to encourage new producers to pick up the camera and join in on contributing to their local media.

- Empower individuals to create channels. Giving everyone their own channel might be a bit excessive, but what about giving people the ability to program their own channel by pulling from a giant library of content? In many full fiber networks, the ability to add channels is near infinite, so there should be room to support a large number of voices.

- Establish an avenue for capturing local creativity in technology development. It's unlikely that LUS will have sufficient resources to devote to developing new, innovative, interactive features that extend the functionality of their service. But that doesn't mean they can't enable that innovation by creating a sandbox and inviting the open source community in to play. By doing this they may be able to realize all sorts of innovations that could extend the functionality of local community media.

These are just some ideas to get the conversation started.

Now I want to turn the issue over to you all out there. I know there are a number of great, creative minds focused on the task of making PEG great. What would you do if given the opportunity to build a local community media system on a network with infinite bandwidth alongside a network operator who's top interest is in making its city great?

Is there specific hardware you'd recommend? Or are there features and functionality not mentioned above? Or do you have thoughts that build on this initial list?

Whatever mindshare you can add to this equation will be more than welcome and it has the potential to guide decisions being made over the coming months in Lafayette.

I believe we have an incredible opportunity to imagine what the future can be down in Lafayette and make it come to life. And in so doing I believe that the lessons learned there will be able to help solve problems elsewhere as we all work together to make our country even greater than it already is through supporting stronger local community media.

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Comments (1)

You are not alone in developing PEG 2.0 systems - there are colleagues working on everything you've imagined across the nation.

We're in the process of launching next generation digital applications for community access to broadband media here in Humboldt County, on the Redwood Coast of California. The list of specifics is too long to mention here - but one key is to join in national collaborations for open source tools!

I'd recommend that you come to the Alliance for Community Media conference in DC July 10-12th - ourchannels.org

Next generation media access will also be a major focus for ACM-West conference in Denver in October. acmwest.org Denver is an emerging leader in next generation media access...

Posted by Sean McLaughlin on June 14, 2008 5:02 PM

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