Don't Sacrifice Safety for Spectrum

By: Roger Sheppard
By: Roger Sheppard

Head-long rush to promote internet at the expense of broadcasting, could jeopardize pubolic safety

The state of West Virginia recently got some good news about the proposed expansion of high-speed internet access and the state, and efforts to get the 126-million dollars necessary to do it.

This is great news for a lot of people who live in areas where high-speed internet access is limited.

At the same time that the Obama Administration is in a head-long race to increase internet use, broadcasters such as TV and radio stations are coming under more pressure to give up spectrum to allow more wireless devices.

You may remember that TV stations, like WTAP, were forced to give up their old analog frequencies several years ago, and migrate over to all-digital broadcasting.

This was done so that the federal government could auction off those analog frequency ranges to emerging technologies and put those billions into the federal budget.

Broadcasters received no federal assistance in paying for this transition which cost billions of dollars across the entire industry. And we also had the job of explaining this transition to the public and taking care of all of the issues and complaints. That's OK. Getting information out to the general public is what we do every day.

Now, the federal government is looking at more of this spectrum, and ways to make more money off of it and expand wireless communications.

There's just one thing the federal government is forgetting.

And that is, that broadcasters are the only entity with a tons of experience at getting emergency information out to the public in a large-scale manner, in a fast complete fashion.

There are scores of examples where earthquakes and major storms have knocked out wireless communication systems. But broadcasters were able to stay on the air, providing life-saving information not only to residents but sometimes, even to first-responders.

TV stations, like WTAP, take this situation very seriously. WTAP has invested tens of thousands of dollars in emergency back-up systems to help make sure that we never lose power at our main studio system or at our transmitter site.

Because we know that when you need us most, we have to be there, ready to give you the information you need. We can't merely say "sorry, all circuits busy," or "internet connection lost."

Broadcasters have done their part by giving back huge chunks of the airwaves to first-responders and evolving technologies and putting the digital systems in place to accomplish this.

But they should not be forced to give up so much spectrum that the communities they serve are at-risk of not getting the information they need in times of local or national emergencies.


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