Microsoft is lobbying Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for free spectrum – or airwaves – to operate unlicensed devices. Microsoft claims this would unlock broadband for rural America, but fails to mention it will do so at the expense of rural Americans’ lifeline local TV service.
Broadcasters urge policymakers to reject Microsoft’s proposal and ensure your constituents have access to the critical news and emergency information local TV stations provide.
Microsoft claims the airwaves they want for free are “vacant channels,” but if that were the case, no changes would be needed to current rules. Microsoft can already use unused television channels to provide rural broadband service.
Recently, the FCC held an auction of the broadcast airwaves to make more channels available for wireless services. Microsoft chose not to bid on airwaves in that auction, but is now asking the FCC to give it airwaves at no cost and on better terms.
As a result of the auction, the amount of airwaves available for local TV is shrinking. Nearly 1,000 TV stations are currently being moved to new channels to make room for wireless services.
As part of this process, many low-power TV stations and translators, which help carry the signals farther and bring TV service to rural America, are being forced off the air. Viewers are already at risk of losing critical local news, emergency, weather and community information. Microsoft’s plan to set aside more airwaves for unlicensed devices would further harm viewers in this process.
This is not a new proposal – Microsoft has been promising rural broadband for nearly a decade. Microsoft asked for, and was given, free access to airwaves in 2008. The FCC also granted unlicensed devices the ability to operate at higher powers and closer to television stations to help deployment.
Now Microsoft is pulling a bait and switch. The company promised innovation and investment, but now claims that the spectrum access it has already been given isn’t good enough. Microsoft wants to take away channels from television stations with no promise to offer anything in their place. This harms television viewers throughout the country even if no broadband service is ever offered.
Groups representing rural Americans are not falling for it. Cattlemen, wheat growers, agri-women and state agriculture departments are opposing Microsoft’s spectrum grab because they recognize how vital local broadcasting is for rural communities.
The bottom line:
Don’t harm television viewers to give a $540 billion company a handout when they have not delivered on promises of the past.