Letter: Farm Bureau endorses EchoStar-DIRECTV merger

Published May 1, 2002

Dec. 27, 2001

To Members of Congress:

The American Farm Bureau Federation believes that the proposed merger between DIRECTV and EchoStar Communications will provide great benefits to rural America, making broadband services available to millions of rural residents and expanding local broadcast coverage.

The proposed merger will help make the first broadband satellite telecommunications system a reality for many rural areas starved for high speed Internet access. As noted in the joint study by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utility Service (RUS), Advanced Telecommunications in Rural America, April, 2000, less than five percent of small towns and rural communities have access to the two dominant broadband technologies offered by local exchange carriers and cable companies, while each of those technologies are available to more than half of all cities with more than 100,000 in population.

That same report specifically points to the potential of satellite technology as an essential element of bringing broadband to many rural and high-cost areas: “Satellites may therefore be an attractive alternative for remote locations that cannot be economically connected via other last-mile technologies. These systems are not constrained by distance and offer the opportunity to leap directly to broadband service without upgrading existing terrestrial communications infrastructure.” If the merger is approved, the combined entity will have the ability to deliver high speed Internet access via satellite to virtually any rural resident.

Farmers, ranchers, small businesses and rural residents, in general, live in circumstances where weather and news are an essential part of their everyday lives. Rural residents rely upon local broadcasters to keep them informed, especially regarding the weather. This proposal will significantly advance the goal of delivering local-to-local broadcasting to more rural markets. The spectrum efficiencies achieved by combining the capacity of EchoStar Communications and DIRECTV will enable the combined entity to deliver local broadcast signals to more than 100 markets—a significant expansion of today’s circumstances where only about 40 local markets are able to receive local-to-local broadcast signals via satellite.

For these reasons, the American Farm Bureau Federation believes that the proposed merger is good for rural America. It will help revitalize rural communities and small businesses and improve the quality of life of American farm and ranch families.

We urge you to support the EchoStar-DIRECTV merger.

Bob Stallman
American Farm Bureau Federation