Small communication firms target system
“They (Federal Communications Commission) completely ignored all of the small company concerns,” said James Kail, president and CEO of Laurel Highlands Total Communications, which provides telecommunications services for rural areas.
During an informational meeting held Tuesday at the Cook Township Community Center, Kail; Dennis Cutrell, president of Citizens Cable, Internet and Telephone of Kecksburg; and other representatives of smaller providers, tried to make the point that rural users of communications services are not in a good position to continue to be served in an efficient and costly manner.
Fees that larger companies paid to connect with the small companies are being decreased, year by year. This squeezes the small companies and many, who based decisions to take out loans on what they were receiving for services 10 years ago might be forced out of business, they said. The large companies may pick up those areas if the small companies go out of business, but they will not be required to provide the high speed services that are provided in major cities such as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
The representatives said, for example, while Internet download speeds in the big cities would be above 100 megabytes-per-second, other areas are only mandated to have a four megabytes-per-second download speed.
Kail said large companies base their service decisions on how many people live in a given area. And they might not pick up all of the areas served by a smaller provider going out of business. A four-megabyte speed is all that presently can be provided through wireless services, which might be what the big corporations might force on the rural users.
One man in the audience said he did not get fiber-optic cable service in his former home near Greensburg, even though the area where his home was located is densely populated. He said he joked with friends that he had to move to the mountains to get the high-speed fiber-optic services.
Kail said the FCC told legislators they had met with and heard the concerns of the smaller companies 450 times. Yet the concerns were not considered when the FCC set the new regulations.
Kail said the reason the FCC has ignored the small communications companies is simple: “Money.” The large companies, like Verizon and Comcast, spend money for lobbyists in Washington. And that is why decisions are made that favor the large corporations.
“Ten years ago, you never thought we were regulated by the FCC,” Cutrell said. “I would have said ‘state Public Utility Commission.' Now we're still regulated by them (the state) but we're very much regulated by the FCC.”
Kail said the small companies just want to have a fair system, one which addresses their concerns and needs as well as those of the big corporations.
Presently, another 50 cents will be added to bills in July, a decision made by the FCC. Another increase is expected in each following year.
The community representatives said somehow, the charges the big corporations were paying to the small companies to link to their customers were being viewed as a tax. Kail said the charges were fees for the use of the services, of providing links to all customers, no matter where they live. He said it would be similar to someone living in a city saying they did not want to pay for highways in the country because they almost never use them.
The service providers said they want those who are concerned with keeping good service at a reasonable price to contact their congressmen, who are charged with overseeing the FCC. If enough make their concerns known, then Congress may act to force the FCC to make better decisions for all customers.
Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-626-3538.