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RMFU opposes satellite merger

DENVER—Rocky Mountain Farmers Union’s (RMFU) Board of Directors meeting here this week voted unanimously to oppose the proposed merger between satellite companies EchoStar and DirecTV. The board came out strongly against the merger because it would give a single company 85 percent of the U.S. satellite market.

“Less competition is never good for the consumer, but it is especially devastating to rural communities since they seldom have the option of having a cable provider,” said RMFU Chairman Jan Kochis. “If this merger is approved, most rural areas will have only one provider.”

RMFU says that if the merger goes through without regulations, price increases are inevitable and could result in rural citizens and institutions, such as schools, libraries and hospitals, being shut out of the market or having to greatly increase their fees. “High speed Internet access has enabled rural communities to take advantage of distance learning, to upgrade research capacity at schools and libraries, and to get high-level medical consultations from some of the nation’s top hospitals,” Kochis said. “We would hate to turn back the clock by allowing a satellite monopoly to control access to the Internet, news and entertainment in rural America.”

In addition to Farmers Union, the merger is being questioned by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, the National Association of Towns and Townships, and the Organizations Concerned About Rural Education. The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee has announced it will hold hearings on the proposed merger.

“We would like to see some of these hearings held in the countryside,” Kochis said. “I think it is important for lawmakers to hear from the folks who would be most affected by such a merger before making their decision.”

RMFU will bring the resolution passed at its board meeting opposing the merger before the National Farmers Union (NFU) Policy Committee for consideration when NFU holds it convention March 1-4, in Dallas, Tex.

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