Monopoly satellite service
Bigger is not always better.
When it comes to rural services, mergers, which create one big unregulated
company, are seldom an improvement.
Take for example the current
talks between two satellite TV companies who now compete for customers
in rural Missouri. They say they want to become one big company to provide
better service at lower cost.
What's that, we might ask?
As my grandpa Joe might have suggested, "Let's run that heifer by the
gate one more time to get a better look at it."
EchoStar and DIRECTV say they
are motivated to merge their two companies, leaving only one, to benefit
their rural customers. As we find that hard to comprehend, we might ask
them to show us how it would work. Show us, if you can, how we will benefit
when forced to buy a service from an unregulated monopoly whose objective
is to maximize profits.
There may be more at stake
here than television programming. Satellite telecommunications technology
has advanced rapidly in the last decade. Changes in the transfer of data
via satellite for business, education and health care will change even
more dramatically in the years ahead.
Future high-speed data transfer
capability will become essential to our everyday lives. Much of that data
will reach us through coaxial cable or satellite. For the most part, rural
residents don't have access to cable.
We have only two satellite
companies competing for our television broadcast business. Would this
merger lead to more mergers limiting telecommunications services for rural
The architects of this rural
satellite merger/monopoly idea came up with some dandy arguments to advance
their plan. Some of their "dandiest" are: 1. Our merger into one company
will allow rapid advances in technology which will benefit rural people.
2. We can cut our operating costs and pass the savings on to our captive
customers. 3. Because an unregulated monopoly business can charge more,
increased company profits will eventually trickle down as savings to our
Grandpa Joe would have figured
out what those three (heifers) were all about the first time they ran
by the gate!
We need to stay on alert as
this issue is discussed in Congress and reviewed by the Justice Department
and the Federal Communications Commission.
Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, owned and controlled by rural
satellite subscribers, is already deep into this fight. They represent
and protect our rural telecommunication interests and we need to give
them our support.
Stork was executive
vice president of the Association of Missouri
Electric Cooperatives and a member of Three Rivers Electric Co-op.