National Farmers Union (NFU) joined a group of agriculture and conservation organizations in sending letters to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC); the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; and the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce urging for further research relating to spectrum incentive auctions and their impact on television translator service and low power television.
In 2012, Congress authorized the FCC to conduct voluntary spectrum incentive auctions. This allows television broadcasters to sell their channels to wireless companies for a portion of the auction proceeds. Broadcasters that choose not to participate in the auction may eventually be relocated to maximize spectrum availability for wireless services.
“In rural and mountainous areas, local broadcast television is often the only communications infrastructure that connects our communities. Over-the-air broadcast television often serves as our lifeline – connecting farmers, ranchers and growers to more populated areas. Our members rely heavily on broadcast television for local public affairs programming, news, weather and emergency information,” the letter noted.
Only full-power television broadcasters are eligible for auction participation or compensation. Low-power television stations and TV translators, which serve small, rural areas with local television signals, are not guaranteed a channel location and will not be compensated for their moves, which may result in viewers losing current channels and limiting access to local news and information. There are currently 1,984 low-power stations and 4,171 television translators in the U.S., with Montana and Utah housing more than 1,100 translators.
“The Commission must carefully consider the significant negative impact of unnecessarily reallocating more spectrum than is necessary in rural America, especially on those viewers that receive broadcast television via a translator or other low-power television stations. We are certain there is a way forward that addresses the congestion on wireless networks in urban areas that does not imperil rural America,” the letter further noted.
The letter was signed by American Agri-Women, Association of Range Consultants, National Association of Conservation Districts, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Farmers Union, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, United States Cattlemen’s Association and Women Involved in Farm Economics.
In April, Utah Farmers Union President Kent Bushman visited Washington, D.C. to discuss the impacts of telecommunications policy on rural America in briefings conducted at the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.
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