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RMFU supports halt of satellite merger

DENVER—Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) learned just following the departure to Washington, D.C., of one of its members to testify against the proposed merger of Dish Network and DirecTV that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had recommended against the merger.

RMFU member Ben Schafer, who owns a cattle operation near Limon and Hugo, Colo., that has been in business since 1873, presented his arguments against the merger before the Department of Justice (DOJ) Oct. 11, just one day after the FCC announcement was made.

“It was a very good opportunity to talk with the Justice Department about the impact of a satellite monopoly on rural communities,” said RMFU President John Stencel. “While the FCC ruling is great news, Dish Network and DirecTV are unlikely to let the issue die.” “About 90 percent of Americans live on 3 percent of the land—in cities and suburbs—while the remaining 10 percent of Americans live on the other 97 percent of the land,” Schafer told the DOJ. “The 10 percent who live in rural areas are not satisfied to play technological ‘catch up’ to urban centers. There is a clear and present need to efficiently and economically plug into the national marketplace and into a quality of life accessible to the other 90 percent.”

In his discussion with DOJ officials, Schafer used communities in Lamar, Colo., and Torrington, Wyo., as case studies where Internet access is crucial to more effective services and a better quality of life, both of which, according to Schafer, would be threatened if access to internet connections via satellite were jeopardized due to the merger of the two leading satellite providers.

“Rural America, if it is to be competitive with urban America, needs to have fast, efficient and reliable access to the information highway,” Schafer said. “Bridging the gap created by long distances to urban centers can be accomplished by internet access for schools, technical colleges, medical centers, agricultural auction houses and many other industries.”

From the onset, RMFU has opposed the merger of the two satellite giants. The merger would mean that in most rural areas, the new company would be the only provider of high-speed Internet access. RMFU also has pointed out that the new company could decide not to provide service at all to rural areas because they are less cost-effective to serve.