Satellite Shouldn’t Count

I was sitting in a restaurant lounge the other day, waiting for a take-out order to be prepared, and I was watching a sports channel on their flat screen televisions. Actually, I mostly watched text images that announced that the signal had been lost (which was probably caused by the massive thunderstorm that was going on at the time). The fact is that satellite doesn’t always work, even in areas where it has a strong “footprint” for its signals. It’s one thing if the blockage is caused by temporary precipitation, but in some places, granite mountains can prevent your dish from getting an unobstructed view of the necessary patch of sky permanently.

This may seem trivial, but it’s not when you consider that the FCC lets cable operators cite satellite service as effective competition, which can have an impact on the fees charged for cable services. Senator Bernie Sanders thinks that this is a problem for many of his constituents in Vermont, because mountains leave many of them with just a single choice for subscription television service. (And over-the-air broadcasts aren’t much of an option for them, either, unless their antenna is on the top of a nearby mountain.) Senator Sanders wants the FCC to roll back some rate increases that have been allowed over the last ten years, because the satellite services cited as competition are not effective alternatives for many subscribers.

It’s easy to get tunnel vision about television services when the vast majority of U.S. households live in densely-populated urban areas, but it’s important to remember that a significant number live in sparsely-populated regions, and the services that we take for granted in metropolitan markets are a lot more problematic in rural areas.