Claim Vacant TV Channels

This October, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to complete a rulemaking process that could open the door to solving the rural broadband Internet access problem. Or, this rulemaking could further delay a solution to the lack of affordable broadband which handicaps so many of our rural communities.

The ruling will decide whether or not vacant TV channels — which become available next February when TV goes digital—may be used for unlicensed wireless broadband Internet access. The technology is similar to the popular wireless broadband—known as Wi-Fi—now used in homes, airports, and coffee shops nationwide.

These TV channels (part of our public airwaves) are far superior to the unlicensed spectrum currently used for Wi-Fi access—and for a wealth of other useful wireless devices ranging from baby monitors to garage-door openers.

This spectrum has exceptional reach and coverage: Signals travel further, using less power than in the higher frequency bands, and can penetrate foliage and solid objects, making it easier and cheaper to construct networks. Unlicensed use of this spectrum is a cost-effective solution to the rural broadband problem, and it is close at hand.

Without unlicensed access to these vacant public channels, rural America will be condemned to even more years of absentee-owned telecommunications networks—and the dependency and neglect this system perpetuates.

A growing coalition of rural organizations—including the Center for Rural Strategies, Main Street Project, and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance—invite you to add your organization’s name to a letter urging the FCC to approve unlicensed use of the vacant TV channels. This letter will be added to the official FCC file on the vacant TV channels (known in tech-speak as the “white spaces”).

To add your organization’s name to this important letter, send an email to wallyb@main.nc.us stating this intent, the name of your organization as you would like it listed, and your title. To see who else is signing on, just go to www.ruralstrategies.org (or call 828-255-0182 for more information).

Thanks for supporting this historic effort to ensure affordable broadband for all!

Wally Bowen
Mountain Area Information Network
Asheville, N.C.

Plenty to Whine About

Froma Harrop (in “A Nation of Whiners? Perhaps,” 9/1/08 TPP) sadly follows the skewed line of reasoning of other intellectuals and self-righteous lefties — that the majority of Americans reeling from gas and housing prices are McMansion-owning, big-assed SUV driving, credit-card-loving spendthrifts. That is not the truth.

Yes, there are those types out here but the majority of Americans hurting financially live in average apartments or houses in unspectacular neighborhoods for which they are struggling to pay rent or mortgages. Many of those caught up in the mortgage debacle weren’t buying McMansions, just a regular house in which they purchased to live and raise a family—not as a speculative investment.

Credit card debt? For every spendthrift and bad budgeter, there are two more households that just don’t make enough (even with a second job) to get by ’til the next payday. Spiraling gas, food, and utility costs are causing many folks to utilize credit cards to keep the lights on and kids’ bellies half-full. Unexpected car or house repair, dental or medical emergency not covered by insurance, travel costs to take care of sick relative are a few examples of how credit card debt can happen to even the most careful spenders.

I’m sick of big city pundits (with access to plenty of public transportation and money for taxis) full of glee over $4 gas. And don’t wag your holier-than-thou finger at me about Europeans paying double that. There are several factors that allow such prices to be sustained in Europe that won’t see reality on these shores any time soon, if ever.

The majority of Americans aren’t guzzling gas in super-size SUVs and muscle cars. In urban areas, not all live near the bus or subway line—rural America has no public transport. Even with good public transportation, many jobs or other situations require driving to get to work, or to hospitals when self or family member is sick.

There are still small farmers and blue-collar jobs, such as plumbing and construction work, that require trucks and machinery to earn a living as well as provide services to the community. High gas prices are nailing the coffins for many of their livelihoods.

With wages lagging far behind the cost of living, 3- and 4-dollar gas is nothing to be gleeful about. Every product we use comes to town via truck; higher gas prices are putting truckers in bankruptcy and out of business, and, the higher costs get passed on to wage-poor consumers.

Yes, Mr. & Ms. Hummer McMansion A**hole are a-hurtin’ but Mr. and Ms. Joe Working Stiff are hurting the worst. The McMansion crowd will just downsize but the Working Stiffs will be seriously down and out.

Beverly Rice
Charlotte N.C.

Bankers Never Change

Reading Dave Zweifel’s article, “Law Ignored as Lenders Prey on Elderly”, (9/1/08 TPP) his description of some of the practices of “money lenders” put me in mind of some of the black-and-white movies I saw in the late ’30s as a child.

In the 2-reelers with Tom Mix and Gene Autry, quite frequently the villain of the story turned out to be the banker or the land speculator, now known as a “developer.” We knew it to be fiction but maybe they were trying to tell us something.

From the Bible to Shakespeare, from the 2-reelers to the current scandals, there is always the element of greed that seems to undermine man’s humanity to man.

I seem to remember a PBS Frontline piece about “Wachovia” and some really inventive tax dodges here and in Europe. I think of it every time I see a commercial for Wachovia and their benevolent plans available to investors.

It seems the bankers haven’t changed much, have they?

John L. Harrison
Pocatello, Idaho

War Didn’t End Depression

Sam Uretsky’s statement, “It took the mobilization of World War II to restore the economy” (in “Move Forward from Bush Mess,” 9/1/08 TPP) confuses people, making them think that war benefitted the economy. No, it was the specific parity for agriculture bill, the Steagall Amendment, that brought the economy out of the Depression. ... All people need to eat—all plants and animals are dependent upon the energy of the sun. Shrink down the economic argument to the fact that agriculture is the basic solar-based activity that needs support for us all to survive. Parity’s equality with other sectors of the US economy is necessary and missing from the arguments about how to end a Depression which we have been in since we stopped the parity program at the end of the war. Please enlighten the authors that corporate greed is a vast result of the ignorance of the masses of people about who creates wealth out of solar energy beside the mining and unsustainable oil industry. Please, more information on community-supported agriculture contracts that support small farmers and return money to those who most deserve it and upon whom we are all dependent.

Margie Eucalyptus
Kansas City, Mo.

Publius Speaks Again

Three founding fathers of the American experiment in republican government (Hamilton, Madison and Jay) authored the 85 articles that became known as The Federalist Papers. Their purpose was to elaborate on the principles of government that could ensure the survival of liberty and democracy in the new republic, and to persuade the general public that they should vote for the new Constitution of the United States.

They used the pen name, “Publius,” to write what have been called the greatest political science dissertations in history. Today, the American republic is threatened by private interests over the public interest and the need for an enlightened electorate has never been higher.

To serve this need, the “Liberty and Democracy Alliance” has constructed a free-access website devoted to providing ideological research material to all progressive activists. The website (www.liberaldemocracyalliance.org) contains factual information in selected opinion pieces and articles and essays written by anonymous experts. Like the founding fathers, they have chosen the pen name “Publius.”

Col. William Hamm (USAF, ret.)
Email hammbill@hotmail.com
Austin, Texas

Free Farms from NAFTA

Julia Olmstead’s assessment of California’s proposed Prevention of Farm Cruelty Act (“Chicken Run,” 8/15/08 TPP) brings into relief the futility of any such well-intentioned efforts to place constraints on agri-business so long as NAFTA remains in place. Whether the vast coops (soon to be cage-free, no doubt) spread their footprint, or whether poultry management deems it more profitable simply to transfer operations across borders, the scale of noxious by-products is bound to grow. However laudable the private charity at the market, we, as individuals, may strive to practice with some economic sacrifice, i.e., the voluntary “virtuous inflation” of buying local, small-scale produce, carbon, not to mention myriad other nasty chemical and social consequences, will continue will continue to increase until, as Ms. Olmstead warns, “a more radical change to our food system” can be instated. Stirring the same populace that was sold Free Trade to resist now the siren-song of cheap goods in big-boxes from the sweat-shops of the globe may prove a fool’s errand. Nonetheless, what about “emissions standards” for food? Placing a “carbon footprint,” however crudely quantified, beside the price of each item on the shelf would help. Thus bovine feedlot flatulence would figure beside a low beef price; jet fuel, for example, would figure in the visible cost of strawberries from Chile or China, etc. And what ever happened to Dick Gephardt’s (ex-D-Mo.) call for an international minimum wage-pegged to local costs of living? (Did Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University succeed in fully obfuscating that straightforward formula?) Lest we forget, “Yes, we can” Si se puede! — the UFW reply of legal California farm workers (many with Latino or Filipino ancestors) demanding legal wages and working conditions. And, as for marching, I still have my black T-shirt “NAFTA = Death of the Family Farm.”

Edward F. Tuttle
Email tuttle@ucla.edu
Los Angeles, Calif.

Re-Regulate Industry

Much of what ills our various industries (the airline industry, the banking industry, the food industry—the seemingly never-ending lists of recalls) can all be traced to one word: DEREGULATION, and it has been an unmitigated disaster, whose-major proponents the GOP were but the Democrats have had their hands on it as well. History has proven time and time again that the private sector cannot be left to their own devices without the regulatory hand of government or how many more Sulfonamide Elixir Disasters or financial meltdowns are we going to see? We better start caring about it, or we are not going to have a country to care about.

Tyrone M. Segarra
Wheatfield N.Y.

Too Much Cynicism

For months, the McCain campaign has condemned Obama for youth and lack of experience. Then McCain, who if elected would be the oldest first-term president ever, selects a running mate even younger and less experienced than Obama. On top of that, she has reportedly come under investigation by the Alaska legislature, controlled by her own party, for trying to get her ex-brother-in-law fired from his job as a state trooper: read unprincipled, petty, and vindictive. No one in their right mind would risk having this person as chief executive of the United States, but McCain, caring not for the country but only for winning, stoops to the shallows of identity politics. All cats are gray in the dark for this man, and he plainly believes they will be for the voters as well.

Prove him wrong!

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam
Baltimore, Md.

R’s Lie Big

Republicans working for Sen. McCain (particularly the “Swift Boaters”), remind me of Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels: “When telling a lie, be sure you make it a big one so the masses will believe it.” These Republicans, during the 2000 Republican primary, told the “Big Lies” against their very own, John McCain, when he was a threat to Bush, in lying that McCain had collaborated with North Vietnam and also, fathered an illegitimate child. Next, it was Al Gore, Wesley Clark, John Kerry and now, Barack Obama. I am disappointed in McCain not disavowing this type of politics. He is not the man he was when I voted for him in 2000.

Col. Colin J. N. Chauret (USAF, ret.)
Universal City, Texas

Unbiased Press Needed

A true newspaper is supposed to lay real facts, all facts, unbiased facts before its readers. But many newspapers in this most crucial year of politics are slanting news toward one political party—Republican—in spite of the fact that recent polls show the Bush-led Republicans have mis-governed like no other president in history in the minds of citizens.

Of course when we see our national debt soaring into the trillions, with 9.4 million people out of work, with the whole world hating Americans, with Bush attempting to interfere in the affairs of other nations, lying us into a war causing deaths of our soldiers and untold thousand deaths in other nations, with his anti-woman rights stance, with his support of Big Oil, with his anti-Social Security and anti-health moves for children and the aged, it seems there should be more publicity to these negative facts that affect our lives and happiness.

It is inconceivable that Christians, especially Baptist, voted for this man.

Everett L. Williams
Ingram, Texas

Military Moneyhole

The US spends more annually on its military than the rest of the world combined. The war in Europe ended in 1945. Has the US military inherited a perpetual job of baby-sitting Germany, and Eastern Europe? During the last 60 years the US engaged in numerous armed conflicts, always attacking first. Why? Doesn’t anyone like us? Or, does our economy depend upon being involved in war? Either hot, or cold? The US is also the worldest largest arms merchant.

Lamar Wray
Eupora, Miss.

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2008

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