Without DBS Merger, Alaska Loses Out

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To the Editor:

Most people would assume all 50 states are equal when it comes to broadband access, especially that provided by satellite. In a recent letter to the editor (Multichannel News, Oct. 21), the writer [American Cable Association president Matt Polka] asserted, "Can consumers not now receive Internet access from DirecTV's DirecWay service or from Starband?"

I guess where you stand on the merger of DBS providers DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp. depends on where you sit. From the perspective of one who sits in a place further north than people are willing to go in the winter, the death of the DBS merger does not seem to be a good thing.

Consider this: DirecWay is not an option in most of rural Alaska, due to geography and engineering. Looking to the future, most people believe the launch of Ka-band satellite broadband services, such as SpaceWay, will result steep declines in the cost of satellite broadband. It's too bad most of rural Alaska will not see this dramatic price shift in satellite broadband, again due to geography and engineering (existing or planned services for the most part do not include Alaska).

To heap insult onto injury, Starband LLC — the one satellite broadband system available throughout rural Alaska — will probably be absorbed by SpaceWay very early on. In Alaska, it seems the first effect of the death of the DBS merger will be loss of existing satellite broadband service, something the merged companies said they would expand. I hope the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department are aware of the law of unintended consequences.

Perhaps more important is the impact of rural telemedicine in Alaska on the Universal Service Fund. Because most of rural Alaska will not see any decline in broadband costs, the Universal Service Fund will continue to pay upwards of $13,000 per month for T-1 service to rural health-care facilities. With more than 200 rural villages eligible, don't expect the universal service charge on your telephone bill go down anytime soon.

Tom Brady, Anchorage, Alaska

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