Friday, February 17, 2006

Consumer Groups Endorse Senator Stevens' Efforts to Bring Affordable Broadband To All

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Today Consumers
Union and Free Press endorsed Chairman Stevens' (R-AK)
American Broadband for Communications Act (ABC Act)
that would help bring affordable broadband to all
Americans by freeing unused spectrum within the
broadcast frequency for use by providers of wireless
broadband and for other services.

The legislation directs the Federal Communications
Commission to move quickly to free-up valuable but
unused broadcast airwaves - known as empty channels,
or white spaces- which could then be used for wireless
broadband. In most markets, only half of the broadcast
channels are actually used by television stations.

Below is the letter of support sent to Chairman
Stevens earlier today.

February 17, 2006

The Honorable Ted Stevens

Chairman, Committee on Commerce, Science and

United States Senate

Washington, D.C 20510

Dear Chairman Stevens:

Thank you for your leadership in introducing the
American Broadband for Communications Act and for your
commitment to finding solutions to the problem of
inadequate access to high- speed Internet for
consumers in rural America. We applaud your commitment
to this important issue and strongly support your

Although high-speed Internet adoption has been rising,
the United States still lags far behind other
countries in broadband adoption. While the problem of
limited choice in providers and high cost of problem
exists throughout the United States, the problem is
particularly acute in sparsely populated areas, where
consumers may not even have a single provider to
choose from. Broadband adoption in rural areas is less
than half that of urban and suburban areas. The
numbers are far more stark for distant communities in
Alaska and other remote areas.

Fortunately, wireless, or Wi-Fi, broadband, because of
its low deployment costs and ability to reach distant
consumers without costly infrastructure or equipment,
offers the greatest opportunity for providing
broadband services and new competitive choices to
consumers who currently lack them. Indeed, today,
wireless Internet services providers and communities
are using the airwaves to deliver wireless broadband
to consumers in sparsely populated rural areas who
have never before had access to it. In Alaska alone,
communities and other providers are using wireless
broadband to provide service in McGrath, Gustavas,
Hoonah, and Coffman Cove, among others. Broadband and
other innovative wireless services offer the promise
of increased economic development and jobs, enhanced
market competition, improved delivery of e-government
services, and accelerated universal, affordable
Internet access for all Americans.

Unfortunately, airwaves suitable for wireless
broadband are in short supply. Currently, Wi-Fi
broadband providers must rely on airwaves that limit
the ability of wireless signals to pass through walls,
mountains, forests and other obstacles. This makes
wireless broadband less viable for communities in
densely forested areas and regions with mountainous or
uneven terrain. Without access to airwaves that allow
signals to penetrate these obstacles, even Wi-Fi
broadband will be inadequate for these remote areas.

Your legislation, by directing the Federal
Communications Commission to open currently unused
broadcast airwaves - known as empty channels or white
spaces - for unlicensed use will provide new
opportunities even for the most remote village in
Alaska. Each television market in the United States
has fifty channels allocated for over-the-air,
broadcast television. However, in most markets, fewer
than half of these channels are actually used by
television stations. And in most rural areas, there
are more empty channels than used channels. For
example, the Juneau area alone will have white space
equal to or greater than 74 percent of the digital
broadcast spectrum, even after the digital transition
is completed. More remote areas of the Alaska will
have even more white space available. The American
Broadband for Communities Act of 2006 will allow
communities, innovators and entrepreneurs to tap that
valuable but unused resource to bring high-speed
Internet to Alaska's unserved villages and to the
thousands of other small towns without broadband
access, helping to build stronger, vibrant

Thank you for your leadership on and commitment to
this important issue and for working for meaningful,
market-based solutions to the problem of inadequate
and unaffordable broadband. We look forward to working
with you toward passage of critical legislation to
free unused white spaces.


Jeannine Kenney, Senior Policy Analyst, Consumers

Ben Scott, Policy Director, Free Press


/© 2006 U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/


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