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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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December 17, 2007 7:27 AM

Learning to Love PEG Channels

Last week I wrote a post entitled "Learning to Live Without PEG Channels (And Loving It!)" that attempted to broadly convey a narrow point about the limitations of cable systems and the possibilities of Internet systems for the delivery of PEG content.

Admittedly, I wrote this post focusing only on a small area of a much larger and more complex issue, and in doing so committed the cardinal sin of not acknowledging the other complexities that exist, causing what I'd hoped could be a rallying cry to instead appear like a dismissive rebuttal of the current paradigm.

Luckily for me, the responses to my post were thorough, informative, and enlightening, expanding my understanding of some of the issues at hand, and sparking my interest in learning more about the opportunities and challenges of these vital societal resources.

I've begun an information gathering process in an attempt to prepare for an extended conversation about local community media over the coming weeks and months.

But for now, I wanted to circle back and flesh out a bit more some of the basic ideas expressed in that first post.

To start with, I must reiterate my stance that having accessible ways for the public to create and distribute local content to their community is essential. From what I'm beginning to learn, PEG access centers are an incredible tool that every community should not only have but find as many ways as possible to integrate into their education, government, healthcare, and other areas.

Secondly, PEG distribution via cable systems has some significant problems, and it's not just a matter of Comcast moving PEG channels to their digital tier or statewide franchising weakening local PEG agreements. The problems stem from the limitations of using a mass market broadcast medium that the content creators often have little control over to reach a targeted local audience.

Appointment viewing only works when your audience is highly engaged, willing to not only seeking out the content but also set aside the precise time to watch it, or take the time to find the program and set their VCR or DVR. And it's highly unlikely that viewers who are just flipping through will stop on a PEG channel when they show up in the middle of a program.

TV may reach more people than broadband, but because Internet video can be shared and interacted with you can provide a richer experience and you can deliver easier access to the content on-demand. Additionally, there's the boundary-busting nature of broadband that allows expats to tune in.

Adding this all up, in my mind it means that even if broadband technically reaches fewer people than TV today, you're going to be providing so much more value that you should be able to attract a larger, more participatory audience.

Additionally, there's the potential that building awareness of these online PEG opportunities will drive adoption of broadband as more people realize the benefits of having sufficient bandwidth to watch video.

Thirdly, it's my fundamental belief that for any change to occur in a system effectively, especially major change, you've got to find a way to offer some new form of value to whatever party's being asked to give something up. For this reason, I do think that that even though I see the brightest future for PEG online that doesn't mean they should have to give up their cable spectrum for nothing.

Instead, I'm starting to wonder if there might be opportunities to shift network operator support away from cable spectrum and towards the logistics of delivering online video, perhaps by providing a certain level of QoS for PEG video, or helping host/manage video servers, or providing training on how to do these things.

At this point, my understanding of how everything pieces together is too nascent to provide any more concrete suggestions that this, but I think there may be a lot of potential in seeing what's at the end of this conceptual path.

On a macro level, I want to make sure no one thinks I'm against PEG channels. Instead, what I'm for is figuring out how we can embed the production, distribution, and consumption of video content into the very fabric of a community. How can we get every school, hospital, government agency, etc. creating content that's useful to their constituents? How can we make sure every citizen knows what content's available and how they can find/access it?

For me, the only place we'll find all these answers is the Internet.

And perhaps by focusing more on preparing for how we can adjust the current system to more fully support online initiatives we can find a way through these issues without having to introduce the molasses that is litigation.

To make this happen, everyone will have to buy in, and everyone will have to sacrifice. But the most important part is that we all realize that in doing so, everyone stands to benefit tremendously, whether it's from the economic perspective of network operators, apps developers and services providers having more users to transform into customers, or it's from a societal perspective of all the good the use of broadband can do for our country.

I haven't had a chance yet to address every concern expressed in the comments to my last post on this topic, but know that this is far from the last post on this topic. You can look forward to an in-depth, continuing, analytical exploration of what PEG channels are and can be in the coming months on App-Rising.com.

If you'd like to contribute to the dialog, make your voice heard! Join in and submit a comment. The more voices we have contributing the more likely we are to find the best possible answers to the challenges our country faces.


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