LPTV stations could help bring free broadband to rural communities

Addressing the purported need for Internet service in rural communities, a proposal now circulating in Congress would allow low-power television (LPTV) licensees to provide free broadband services across the country. The service, being proposed by SpectrumEvolution.org (SEO), an anti-broadcast advocacy group, would be partly supported by local advertising.

SpectrumEvolution.org said that spectrum use should “evolve” and be driven by “private entrepreneurial creativity and marketplace forces.”

According to a recent FCC report, approximately 26 million Americans, mostly in rural communities of the country, are denied access to the jobs and economic opportunity made possible by broadband. The commission has said that a partnership with the private sector is necessary to speed broadband deployment across the nation.

The FCC report found that one-third of Americans do not subscribe to broadband, even when it’s available. The SEO said its proposal addresses the FCC’s concerns regarding limited capacity for schools and libraries across the nation, as it would be available to these entities as well with little to no cost.

SEO said that the FCC should consider the use of LPTV licensees, in concert with the hundreds of small and minority-owned businesses that “are eager to provide new services in both urban and rural America.” LPTV spectrum covers all Americans, including low-income Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics, seniors, and residents of tribal areas.

“SEO recognizes the FCC’s desire to aggressively pursue its broadband agenda and would welcome their immediate support and approval of our plan, to provide flexible use of existing LPTV licensed spectrum, making 4G wireless technologies and other broadband services available immediately,” the group said.

SEO said these new services, as provided by LPTV licensees, will create new jobs and opportunities for small businesses and will generate much needed revenue for the government — as existing law already requires that ancillary services provisioned over broadcast spectrum, are required to pay 5 percent of their gross revenue back to the U.S. Treasury.