A Retrospective on the Importance of PEG – The Full Picture

by Dave Garb, Legislative Committee Chair

Last month we talked a little about how PEG Television Channels showed their true value to our individual communities during the pandemic. We all embarked on a “fast tracked” learning curve in order to deliver important information and programming to our audiences.

Local governments, schools, small businesses, community organizations and of course, our residents, all benefited immensely because of the endeavors of their individual access channels.

PEG organizations are the ones who truly bleed the slogan “As Local, As Local Gets”! Or should we say

Let’s review what PEG actually accomplished in the beginning of the pandemic:

1) PEG, as I mentioned, had a limited time to figure out how to continue broadcasting all local
government and public meetings to our residents to maintain transparency. Every PEG station has
different requirements in order to air their specific programming. We had to quickly learn how
platforms, such as Zoom and Cisco, worked with our various channel needs. Not only were we able
to go Live through these means, but we were able to air our vital information to Facebook, YouTube,
ROKU, AppleTV and Amazon Fire. We also were able to stream on individual municipal websites and
PEG websites, and some stations did Instagram and Podcasts. Wherever our audiences were able to
see and hear us, we made sure that the messages got to them!

2) PEG constantly updated essential messages from Mayors, Superintendents and Health Officials.
All of us were put on a 24/7 standby notice to make this happen. PEG channels were also the only
place viewers could go to watch Governor Murphy’s “daily” press briefings in their entirety, both
“live” and “on demand.”

3) PEG recorded a series of chemistry, biology, and other education labs and lectures to be able to
bring the practical education to students’ homes. Many stations tried to create programing to help
parents entertain their kids while they worked from home. PEG even developed specialized
programming around yoga, meditation, drawing, painting and sing-a-long songs that both educate
and entertain. Everyone created unique programming that was something that the residents looked
forward to, learned from, and provided something positive.

4) While many municipal stations don’t normally carry religious services, because of the pandemic,
special arrangements were made with local churches, synagogues and mosques to carry services to
worshipers who were not allowed to attend them in person. Many PEG stations also covered virtual
graduations to give families a chance to celebrate with their graduates when traditional celebrations
were not allowed to be in person. While sports were allowed to be played, attendance was
restricted, so PEG stations carried many local school sporting events so friends and family could
watch their teams and children compete. In addition, events such as Memorial Day parades, that
were not allowed to have an in-person audience, were recorded so they could be seen later,
providing an important sense of normalcy.

5) PEG stations kept their Bulletin Boards up-to-date with local news and announcements from the
latest Covid information to senior hours at grocery stores. This included public service messages
about proper hand washing techniques, social distancing requirements, the need to wear masks,
testing locations and more.

PEG stations are, always have been, and will continue to be the main source for community communications, including the monitoring and involvement with our local government officials and school boards. Unfortunately, it took this pandemic for everyone to realize the benefits of having local channels, and the value which PEG has always provided to local communities.

FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel Responds to Lawmakers’ Concerns About
The Future of the Universal Service Fund

In September, Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel penned responses to two groups of lawmakers who had written to Rosenworcel about the future of the Universal Service Fund. In her responses, the chairwoman highlighted the FCC’s Report on the Future of the Universal Service Fund adopted on August 12, 2022. FCC Reports to Congress on Future of the Universal Service Fund

This report is connected to the Infrastructure Act, which includes the largest ever federal investment in
broadband, totaling approximately $65 billion. This Report provides recommendations for further actions
by the Commission and Congress to build upon that investment and improve the ability of the Commission
to achieve its goals of universal deployment, affordability, adoption, availability, and equitable access to
broadband through the Universal Service Fund and other Commission programs, to ensure that all of us have the broadband needed to succeed and thrive today.

The Report includes discussion of the costs of data transportation and their impact on rural providers,
according to Rosenworcel. “It recommends that the FCC initiate a proceeding to consider the future support
needs of networks serving high-cost areas, and in doing so assess what continuing support is needed to
develop, maintain and improve broadband operations in those locations,” she said. “In addition, the Report
includes discussion of middle-mile development in high-cost areas,” she continued, and recommends that the FCC “engage with NTIA on this program, and then study its results and its implications on for High Cost and the other universal service programs.”

Rosenoworcel also states that the Report includes discussion of whether the Universal Service Fund
contribution base should be broadened to include “edge providers,” such as streaming video providers or
major digital advertisers, which are by many accounts responsible for a significant volume of traffic on
networks serving high-cost areas.”