Pursuing Unconstitutionality of STELA Legislation
16 August 2021: I sent the following email to the attorneys I had contacted in May 2021 since they never responded:
I am following up on my email (see below) sent to each of you individually based on your entry on the State Bar of Arizona web site that documents your expertise in Constitutional Law. I am disappointed that none of you responded, regardless of your opinion on the constitutionality of the STELA Federal legislation. At the very least, I hoped that there would be a willingness to support the citizens and businesses in the affected areas of southern Arizona. As I noted in my original email, those who do not live with this issue daily, do not understand its seriousness. Although I was referring to members of Congress and the FCC, apparently the legal profession needs to be included on that list.
If you know of other professional attorneys with the requisite expertise, I would greatly appreciate it if you would provide their contact information to me.
STELA Reform Advocate
In May 2021, Michael Weasner wrote:I obtained your name from the State Bar of Arizona web site. Before I get into the issue that has prompted me to contact you, I want to give you a brief background about me.
I have a degree in Astrophysics, was a US Air Force A-7D jet fighter pilot, USAF Jet fighter instructor pilot, a manager on the USAF Space Shuttle Program, and a senior manager at a large southern California aerospace company. After retiring in 2007, I and my wife moved to Oracle, Arizona, where I have my own astronomical observatory. In 2014 I was instrumental in having Oracle State Park designated as an "International Dark Sky Park" by the International Dark-Sky Association. It was the first park in the Arizona State Parks system to earn that honor. If you are interested in learning more about me, see http://www.weasner.com/mike
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "Designated Market Area" (DMA) regulation prohibits southern Pinal County residents from receiving Tucson TV stations (30 miles away) via DirecTV and Dish TV satellite providers. Instead, the FCC requires that citizens only receive the Phoenix TV stations (about 120 miles away). DirecTV and Dish TV must comply with the FCC DMA regulation that puts all of Pinal County in the Phoenix TV market area. This flawed market area assignment means that some Arizona citizens can not view the nearest TV stations with local news, weather, sports, advertising, and local emergency information.
The FCC DMA regulation stems from the Congressional "Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act" (STELA) legislation. Since 2013 I have tried to get Congress and the FCC to fix the dangerous and unfair STELA legislation and the FCC DMA regulation. STELA and the FCC DMA puts local lives at risk and harms local businesses. Unfortunately, our elected representatives in Congress have continued to fail the citizens of southern Arizona and not enacted legislative change, even after acknowledging in 2018 and 2020 that STELA puts local lives at risk. Two local serious crises in 2020 (the COVID-19 pandemic and the Bighorn Fire) have proven that what I have said since 2013 is correct. Many of my efforts on this issue since 2013 are documented here: http://www.weasner.com/STELA
The STELA legislation treats customers of cable TV companies differently than customers of satellite TV companies living in the same area, possibly making this part of the STELA legislation unconstitutional.
Some members of Congress want to believe that using the Internet to view local TV livestreams is an alternative solution to fixing STELA. This belief completely ignores the facts that the Internet solution means that viewers must have reliable and high-speed Broadband service (not necessarily true in rural areas), they must WANT to use the Internet (also not true for many citizens who worry about security), and they would have to pay TWICE for TV reception (once to their satellite TV provider for the benefits of satellite TV reception and second to their Internet Service Provider). Another reason that viewing live local TV video streams on the Internet is not a solution is that local business advertising shown during on-air live broadcasts is not always shown on the livestream, thereby preventing potential customers from seeing these local ads. In fact, out-of-state advertising is frequently shown on the livestreams. Not seeing ads for local businesses during livestreams hurts businesses in both Pinal and Pima counties, as well as consumers in southern Pinal County. Using the Internet is not an acceptable solution to immediately fixing the flawed STELA legislation and the FCC DMA regulation.
Satellite TV providers, affected TV station managers, and affected citizens and businesses understand the issue. Congress and the FCC, who do not live with this issue daily, do not understand its seriousness. This is not just a Pinal County issue as it affects other TV markets around the country. Congress agrees that the legislation they enacted is illogical, unfair, and dangerous. Getting Congress to fix what they created is the challenge. So far, concerned individuals and Pinal County government officials have been unsuccessful at getting Congress to act responsibly.
I hope to connect with an attorney who has experience on Constitutional Law and has worked on FCC issues. The main goal is to get Congress and the FCC to immediately enact appropriate changes to allow southern Pinal County citizens to view Tucson TV stations. With experts saying that Arizona is likely to experience another major year for wildfires, failure to act should not be an option. The next crisis could be weeks, days, or hours away.
As this issue affects other locations, there will be broad appeal across the United States to getting Congress and the FCC to stop putting lives at risk and harming businesses.
I realize that necessary legal options will be complex and require specific legal expertise. Over the years of pursuing this issue I have become the Pinal County "point person" on STELA reform. While the Pinal County Board of Supervisors and Tucson TV station managers endorse my efforts, they obviously can not provide financial support. As I am retired, my financial means are limited. I hope that by working together, an experienced attorney and I can find a way forward to urgent and meaningful STELA legislation change. I welcome your thoughts. Please let me know if you are interested in pursuing this issue or would like to know more.
If any readers know of attorneys with Constitutional Law expertise, please have them contact me.
31 August 2021: I have continued to reach out to local attorneys. Most have never responded to my inquiries. Two did respond; one to say that he was no longer in private practice and the other that he was not qualified. This second attorney did give me a reference for a local law firm that may be qualified. I have contacted them and await their response.
The illogic of STELA law and some lawyers
Main Flawed STELA Legislation page