FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein visited New York last Tuesday to speak at the first annual ISCe Satellite Investment Symposium, which brought satellite operators together with Wall Street analysts and investors. Proclaiming to be “bullish on satellite,” Adelstein spoke about the potential role of satellite technology in providing ubiquitous broadband access, particularly to rural areas like his home state of South Dakota.
“Serving the public interest means securing access to communications for everyone, particularly including those who might be left behind,” said Adelstein, who added that he is looking forward to working with the satellite industry to help “turn the vision of ubiquitous broadband into a reality.”
Adelstein admitted to being a digital satellite radio subscriber ("I can't live without it now"), though he wouldn’t identify whether his provider was XM or Sirius, and also noted the popularity of DBS services like DirecTV and EchoStar in his home state.
“My home state of South Dakota has more dishes than buffalo, and more dishes than Democrats, particularly since I left,” he said.
Continuing with the humor, Adelstein referenced EchoStar’s failure to get legislative relief in its ongoing battle with broadcasters over the distribution of distant network signals into local markets.
“The bad news for EchoStar is that maybe 800,000 viewers are losing service,” said Adelstein. “The good news is that there will be 800,000 fewer indecency complaints [at the FCC].”
On a more serious note, Adelstein noted the valuable competition that DBS operators have created in the multichannel television market---“I don’t know where we would be without satellite providing competition to cable”---and said the FCC was looking at ways to provide more capacity to DBS operators through new technologies such as “reverse band” operations, which would take spectrum allocated to uplinking and re-purpose it for downlinking.
But when asked whether a potential merger between EchoStar and DirecTV might pass antitrust muster now that telcos like Verizon and AT&T have launched multichannel video services and created a second competitor to cable, Adelstein wasn’t optimistic.
“The new competition is very nascent, and far too nascent to give a market analysis that would create comfort with that,” he said.