Lufkin, TX (March 7, 2011) – A coalition of television broadcasters, many of whom are religious broadcasters, has united to save free television, free speech, and stop the monopolization of mobile broadband by the cellular carrier cartel.
The same government bureaucracy that forced broadcasters and citizens to spend billions of dollars to complete the digital TV conversion just last year, now plans to take another 20 TV channels and auction them off to the highest bidders. This spectrum at auction will inevitably fall into the hands of the largest and most dominant of the existing wireless service providers – as it always has in the past.
The FCC already forced TV broadcasters to surrender Channels 52 through 69 to this very same cellular cartel during the last spectrum grab. Now the FCC has announced plans to take another 20 TV channels from an industry still reeling from the last bureaucratic raid. When the proposed auction of currently licensed spectrum takes place, it will be industry giants bent on monopolizing public airwaves that will gain control.
This will silence many independent voices of the religious broadcasters and community stations that provide platforms for diversity, localism, and faith.
The inescapable consequences of the government plan’s plan – elimination of local broadcasters, diminishment of religious voices, shackling of technological growth, and destruction of independent businesses and entrepreneurs – is being whitewashed as a move to better serve the broadband needs of our rural communities. But nothing could be further from the truth. The facts are clear and provable. Broadband can be delivered to rural towns across the nation “faster, better and cheaper” by existing broadcasters. Existing local broadcasters are “ready, willing and able” to deliver broadband to rural America today.
The answer is deregulation, not government confiscation. The complexity and length of FCC rulemaking actions stand in the way of technological advances. The incentives of cellular carriers to warehouse spectrum in order to create artificial shortages and raise prices has slowed the process to connect America. Under the FCC plan, broadband will not reach rural America for many years, if ever.
Americans are being asked to stop this travesty that will silence thousands of free TV stations across the nation and continue to enslave rural Americans as second class broadband citizens. The public face of this backroom deal is the promise to bring broadband Internet and mobile access to rural areas. However, the reality is just the opposite – a spectrum grab by the largest cellular carriers who have no clear intention, no incentive, and no technology to deliver broadband to rural areas will hinder, not help rural citizens.
“Broadcasting is the most efficient use of the spectrum,” says Lee Miller, a member of the coalition and a provider of local community programming in Lufkin Texas. “We have members of our coalition that have developed ‘free broadband’ models ready to deploy over the next 6-12 months using broadcast TV spectrum. The plan is simple and cheap, and it is here and now – harness the power of broadcasting – its ability to deliver the vast amount of common content with one transmission to thousands of citizens without wasting thousands of discrete individual one-on-one Internet connections.”
Miller, also the outgoing Chairman of the National Religious Broadcasters TV Committee continues, “This is not a future technology that will take years to develop. This is a broadband technology that can be quickly and cheaply deployed right now by local broadcasters while still preserving traditional free over-the-air broadcasts.
This is a win-win for our rural citizens – they get to retain local TV stations – in fact, America will gain thousands of additional free over-the-air stations – while finally getting the broadband services for which they have been waiting decades and maintaining their local freedom of speech against the strangle hold of national media giants.
Best of all – what the FCC ignores – and what the cellular carriers don’t want you to know – is that a substantial portion of these broadband services will be absolutely free. Broadcasters will bring to broadband mobile Internet services what they know and do best – ad supported free services that combat the burden of ever increasing service charges from the cellular cartel.”
Far from benefiting local communities, this transfer of the public airwaves into the hands of gargantuan firms will mean less service, less diversity, fewer independent voices, and a government sponsored takeover of private enterprise to further enrich the wealthiest friends of government. When “East Nowhere, Texas” is competing with Houston and Dallas for spectrum space all owned by the same company, “East Nowhere” hasn’t got a chance, unlike now, when they have their own local broadcasters.
Perhaps the hardest hit will be those niche-markets which are so well-served by local broadcasters; low power stations that provide ethnic, religious and local community programming.
Rod Payne, a coalition spokesman, and also a long-term TV low power community broadcaster from Wichita Falls, Texas reiterates this idea. “This issue really boils down to a restriction of free speech in this country. The redistribution of television air waves from small, community serving and community oriented broadcasters to large corporations which have only one vested interest in the outcome – finance – totally goes against the spirit and the laws of this nation.”
“We’re encouraging everyone to call their friends, congressman and senators to ask the FCC to stop the process to take TV Channels 31-51 from broadcasters. Additionally, ask your congressmen to force the FCC to deregulate and allow broadcasters to provide broadband services with the freedom to implement contemporary technologies on their existing licenses to better serve the public” according to Payne. “Call your congressman today. Ask them not to let the FCC take away our broadcast freedoms by auctioning the TV Airwaves to the big wireless companies. Ask them to allow all broadcasters including the now completely ignored Low Power TV broadcasters to be a part of the plan to offer inexpensive, dependable, high-speed broadband service across America.”
The religious broadcasters of America will be especially hard hit by this government initiative. The coalition includes both low power and full power broadcasters that account for over 1,500 independent local broadcast licensees that will essentially cease to exist if the FCC prevails in its current initiative.