Opinion

Congress: Don’t Stop Working for Video Consumers

Success, and relief, for 870,000 mostly rural Americans around the country means NO MORE TV BLACKOUTS. Congress must reauthorize critical legislation to continue access to TV programming for these mostly rural consumers by enacting the Satellite Television Access Reauthorization (formerly STELAR).

The reauthorization will enable television service for these 870,000-plus rural consumers, who are currently at risk of losing their network programming by the end of this year. This means rural consumers will lose access to major broadcast networks like CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox once the distant signal license expires on Dec. 31, 2019. As we have seen this year, blackouts and rising fees will continue to plague everyone if we keep allowing Congress to put the networks before consumers. It is important that Congress take the necessary steps to maintain service for rural America and move forward with exploring video reform policies that benefit all consumers in 2020.

Any effort to overregulate the marketplace could absolve the benefits that consumers expect from the bingeworthy content they currently enjoy. And no one wants to lose their TV service, including rural consumers. That’s why H.R. 5140 doesn’t work for rural areas – these consumers would lose access to their content in just six short months as the broadcasters would then be allowed to leave consumers in the dark. Rural consumers will lose much of their exclusive content too depending on their service provider if the satellite companies aren’t allowed the distant signal license on Dec. 31, 2019 – leading into the momentous New Year and can’t-miss Super Bowl 2020. This is clearly a broadcasters’ game, and it’s certainly not in the favor of rural consumers.

The unprecedented video services marketplace not only provides consumers incredible choice; it also points to the need for larger video reform by Congress in 2020. While there should not be any regulatory rules imposed that would stifle the innovations that have spurred tremendous growth in video, Congress must realize that no one — including rural consumers — should be left behind as we usher in yet another promising tech innovation that is the revolution in video. It’s no longer just a broadcast television world, and our rules need to get with the program and match the reality of the dynamic 2020 video marketplace.

Consumers today have incredible choice for content, with all of the growing streaming platforms that are now available. While streaming is exciting, the prospect of losing TV access in communities where broadband is already an issue certainly doesn’t help us to get rural on track with the rest of America.

Congress, pass the STAR legislation and keep the TV on for the 870,000 plus consumers. It is high time for Congress to take a closer look at today’s video marketplace and consider the best protections for all consumers that work in this robust content market.

Debra Berlyn is the president of Consumer Policy Solutions and the executive director of Project GOAL, a project to raise awareness of both the benefits and challenges of innovative new technologies for the aging community.

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