It looks like the story is getting out there. Please read the statement below from Congresswoman Watson. She was one who was in attendance and spoke briefly at the Digital Divide Broadcast to Broadband event in D.C. that was setup by New America. I am very happy to have been included in this chance to help lobby for unlicensed use of television channels. My thanks to all in this effort regardless of the outcome going forward. We have done our job at getting the word out to Congress. Thanks to all of you. What else can we do now to keep the momentum going our way?
John Scrivner

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Press Release: Members of CBC Join Congresswoman Watson in Outlin ing Goals to Narrow Digital Divide in Upcoming DTV Legislation
Date:   Thu, 27 Oct 2005 17:32:41 -0400
From:   Chang, Shawn <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
To:     Chang, Shawn <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>

Immediate Release October 27, 2005

*Members of Congressional Black Caucus Join Representative Watson in*

*Outlining Goals to Narrow Digital Divide in Upcoming DTV Legislation *

* *

Washington, D.C. Fifteen members of the Congressional Black Caucus joined Congresswoman Diane E. Watson (CA-33rd) in signing a letter addressed to the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The letter calls on the Committee to address the issue of universal access to digital television (DTV) and the equitable allocation of spectrum when it considers the upcoming DTV bill.

"I and my colleagues from the Congressional Black Caucus recognize the fact that Congress must take advantage of the transition from analog to DTV to narrow our nation's growing digital divide between the "haves" and "have-nots,"" said Congresswoman Watson. AThe recent devastation along the Gulf Coast dramatically reminds us of the need for a robust telecommunications infrastructure that benefits everyone, regardless of race, income, or geographic location. The upcoming transition to DTV has the potential to greatly advance universal access to competitive, innovative, and affordable broadband services. Congress must seize this opportunity by establishing safeguards to ensure that the transition benefits all consumers," stated Watson.

The letter outlines three initiatives that Congress should include in the new DTV bill: 1) a government compensation program for set-top boxes that owners of analog television sets will have to purchase in order to process a digital signal; 2) a set-aside of reclaimed analog spectrum for unlicensed uses to facilitate the deployment of community internet; and 3) a portion of spectrum reserved for bidding by small market players and new entrants, specifically minorities and women, and additional support for programs that would provide necessary access to capital to allow minorities and women to make use of the set-aside spectrum.

The Text of the Letter is Attached Below:

The Honorable Joe Barton


House Energy and Commerce Committee

2125 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable John Dingell
Ranking Member

House Energy and Commerce Committee

2125 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Barton and Ranking Member Dingell:

It is with a vision of a transition to digital television (DTV) that benefits all Americans, that we, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, write this letter. Specifically, in light of the recent devastations along the Gulf Coast due to Hurricane Katrina and Rita that starkly illustrated the divide between our nation's "haves" and "have-nots," we urge you to harness the potential of the DTV transition to open the door to a richer, broader and more inclusive variety of telecommunications services, accessible to all Americans.

Though we've taken widespread access to communications services for granted in the past, the abruptness with which Katrina and Rita left thousands without the means to communicate with loved ones or access public safety information has shown us that a robust and accessible information infrastructure is not only vital to the educational and economic life of our nation, it is an essential element of emergency preparedness.

Universal access to broadband could be a critical first step in ensuring that the benefits of competitive, innovative and affordable telecommunications services (such as Voice over Internet Protocol and broadband video services) are available to everyone, without regard to race, income or geographic location. Such services will allow more consumers to interact with members of their communities at home and overseas, to speak and debate about issues important to sustaining our democracy, to take advantage of community resources and information, and to expand their opportunities for employment, education and entrepreneurship. And, as we saw during the post-Katrina relief efforts, these services allow communication even when power lines are down and the phones are out-of-service. Fast, at-home access to these types of services has been largely unavailable to a significant number of Americans, and minorities in particular.

In order to ensure that the transition to digital television serves to benefit */all/* consumers, we believe that there are two key elements that must be included in the final legislation:

First, in order to avoid a DTV transition that presents an economic burden to consumers, a government compensation program is a necessity. As legislation stands now, when the DTV transition is complete, all households that do not subscribe to cable or satellite at all (or have at least one non-cable/satellite television) will see their television screens go dark. The twenty-million non-cable/satellite households (and the thirty-seven million households with at least one non-cable/satellite television) will then have two choices: to purchase an expensive set-top box so that they can continue to watch the television programming that they used to receive for free, or not to watch television at all. A February 2005 GAO report found that 48% of these over-the-air-only households have incomes under $30,000. A DTV transition that fails to provide compensation for the set-top boxes that will be required to prevent millions of consumer television screens from going dark, will place a tremendous economic burden on African-American families living in urban and rural America.

Second, the DTV transition presents a unique opportunity for the economic and civic empowerment of our constituents in two key areas: (1) providing a means to address the growing "digital divide," and (2) facilitating the participation of small players and new market entrants in the spectrum auction.

*_The "Digital Divide" and Community Internet_*

*_ _*

Community internet - which has been defined as "affordable, universal broadband access provided by local governments, schools, public/private partnerships, non-profits or community groups via new wireless and wired technologies - has been called a "silver bullet for poverty." As representatives of a constituency disproportionately impacted by the "digital divide," we urge the setting aside of spectrum, that will be reclaimed from the broadcasters after the transition, for the purpose of facilitating community internet networks.

The facts of the digital divide are stark: About half of households with incomes above $75,000 have high-speed internet, or broadband, while less than half of families earning under $30,000 have any internet access, even dial-up access. Those without internet access are more likely to be racial or ethnic minorities, and the disparities are even greater between children of various ethnic groups. Without access to broadband, these Americans are further disadvantaged in areas critical to the creation of a level-playing field, such as access to education, healthcare, employment, financial services and community resources.

Many Americans find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide because big telecommunications companies do not offer it in their area, or because it is just too expensive. Community internet networks are beginning to facilitate universal broadband deployment, with all of its benefits, at lower costs to our constituents. Wireless internet technology helps to make these networks effective, and they require the use of publicly-owned airwaves that are in short supply. A set-aside of reclaimed spectrum for unlicensed uses, such as these, will help to make community Internet more viable and help to close the digital divide.

*_A Fair and Equitable Spectrum Auction_*

Also at issue is the ability of small market players and new entrants to compete against the dominant wireless carriers in the spectrum auction. The statistics on minority media ownership are grim, and experts find little reason to believe change will occur in the absence of some measure of government intervention. */While people of color make up 1/3 of /**/America/**/'s population, they hold only 3.8% of our nation's broadcast licenses./* The cost of this imbalance is evident in the dearth of positive, accurate and useful information for and about people of color in our various media. The internet provides an alternate means for people of color to create, distribute, market, and access minority-focused media content. Unfortunately, past attempts to allow meaningful participation by people of color and other minorities in government-generated business opportunities were either ineffective (the C-block spectrum auctions of 1999, which allowed too little, too late minority participation) or successful but ended too soon (the minority tax-certificate and distress sale programs which led to 50% of current minority media ownership).

While the auction of the reclaimed spectrum presents another important opportunity for minority and other small businesses, it is necessary to establish safeguards in order to ensure that this spectrum does not simply increase the holdings of telecommunications giants. These safeguards should: 1) ensure that spectrum is set-aside for bidding by small players and new entrants, specifically minorities and women; and 2) provide support for programs such as the "Telecom Development Fund" (established in the 1996 Telecom Act) which would provide necessary access to capital to allow minorities and women to make use of the set-aside spectrum.

Thank you for considering our views as part of this process. We look forward to working with you and the Committee as you prepare to bring the appropriate legislation to the floor of the House of Representatives in the coming weeks.


Letter signed by: *Robert C. Scott (VA), Charles B. Rangel (NY), Corrine Brown (FL), Alcee Hastings (FL), William Jefferson (LA), Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX), Major R. Owens (NY), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), Donald Payne (NJ), Barbara Lee (CA), Danny K. Davis (IL), Al Green (TX), John Lewis (GA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), John Conyers (MI)*

*Shawn Chang*| Congresswoman Diane E. Watson | Legislative Assistant| ( 202-225-7084 | [EMAIL PROTECTED] <mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]>

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org:Mt. Vernon. Net, Inc.
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