Congress and the flawed STELA Legislation

Efforts to overcome continued Congressional irresponsibility


STELA fiasco thanks to Congress and the FCC


4 January 2021: I emailed the new Pinal County Supervisors Kevin Cavanaugh and Jeffrey McClure to ask them to support resuming the "Market Area Modification" petition to the FCC. Their predecessors had supported the effort. I said that I would work with them and their staff to complete the petition as soon as possible and to establish a deadline for its submittal to the FCC. The Supervisor for my District supports doing the petition. I am waiting for a confirmation that the entire Board of Supervisors will agree to use their limited resources to correct the flaw that Congress has failed to correct for many years.

5 January 2021: I called DirecTV and asked to receive the Tucson TV stations per the FCC "Accessing out-of-market stations by 'unserved' subscribers". As stated in the FCC "Receiving Television Broadcast Stations From Satellite TV Companies":

If your satellite TV company is not offering local-into-local service, or is not offering a particular network TV broadcast station as part of its local-into-local service in your market, and you cannot receive a good signal over-the-air from the local network station, you are an “unserved” subscriber. In this case, you can ask your satellite TV company if it can provide you with an out-of-market station affiliated with the same network.

In particular, I cited the phrase "cannot receive a good signal over-the-air from the local network station, you are an 'unserved' subscriber". I explained the situation here. The Phoenix TV stations are not serving the needs of citizens in southern Pinal County as they let the Tucson stations do that. And with the mountainous terrain here, over-the-air reception is not possible in many locations, including mine. The customer support person I spoke with understood what I was requesting and after investigating for possible solutions for about 30 minutes, she said that I could receive the Tucson TV stations. However, adding the local channels was not possible with my current plan and I would have to switch to a different, higher-cost, plan. This plan did not have several channels that I had on the existing plan. While I was not happy about the higher cost ($22/mo) with less channels, I decided to tolerate it as I could finally stop putting the lives of my wife and myself at risk and could support local businesses by viewing the Tucson TV stations instead of the unsuitable Phoenix stations. I would also be doing a valuable service for other southern Pinal County citizens if this was a viable interim solution while waiting for the county's Market Area Modification petition to work its way through the FCC and be implemented. I authorized the change to the more expensive plan.

I gave her a list of the Tucson TV station channels and call letters. She added them to the plan. After everything was set up we waited for my satellite receiver to recognize change to the Tucson stations. After 20 more minutes the Tucson stations were not showing up and the Phoenix stations were still there. She said she could call me back in two hours after she did more investigations and talked with other specialists. When she called back she had bad news. While she could add the Tucson stations to the plan, they could not be viewed from my zip code. And I could not revert back to the previous, lower-cost, plan as it had expired and my account had been grandfathered. For the next hour I discussed options with the satellite TV provider, but the bottom line is that I am now paying more for less and still will not get the needed Tucson stations, all thanks to the flawed STELA legislation.

I do not fault the satellite TV provider for this fiasco. The fault lies with Congress and the FCC, and is just more proof that the STELA legislation is illogical and flawed, as well as being dangerous and unfair. At the end of the phone calls you can imagine what I thought of Congress and the FCC for not acting in the interests of Arizona citizens in the years since 2013 when I first reported this critical issue to Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick. Wednesday morning, 6 January, in a case of unfortunate timing considering what happened about an hour later at the U.S. Capitol, I sent an email to my Congressman about this fiasco. It was considerably toned-down from what I would have written the previous evening.

21 January 2021: I attended the webinar "What Broadcasters Can Expect in 2021". The topic was "a preview of the broadcast regulation likely to be on the agenda of the FCC, Congress and others in Washington in this time of change". I was able to raise the concern by many southern Pinal County residents that the STELA legislation and the FCC Designated Market Area regulation ban on receiving Tucson TV stations. As has been so unfortunately demonstrated by members of Congress and the commissioners at the FCC, if you do not live with this problem every day you are incapable of fully understanding how it puts lives at risk and harms local businesses.

30 January 2021: The Pinal County Board of Supervisors will be preparing a video to accompany their ongoing lobbying efforts. The video will graphically show the public safety need for a change in satellite coverage for the southern portion of the county. The Board of Supervisors is also looking at other avenues for a solution.

Stay tuned for further updates.


Main Flawed STELA Legislation page


Copyright ©2021 Michael L. Weasner / mweasner@mac.com
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