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Satellite Problems - Some are Just Plain Taxing!

Fri, 05/30/2003 - 11:56am

By David A. Case NCE, NCT

It seems lately all I have been dealing with is satellite based issues one way or the other this year, though focusing on satellite issues is not my main task. However in wireless one deals with the hand dealt.

The first problem I encountered was after a big winter storm and my satellite dish that provided broadband access got moved a few degrees off kilter because of a broken bracket (over 90 degrees) and I was no longer able to make connection. Ever try to tell your service provider that your antenna was not pointed at the satellite and that is why you lost the signal and it was not a software problem. Let's just say they did not even believe the installer who came out to re-point the dish that the service call was necessary.

I have also been busy addressing satellite concerns from the RLAN perspective as part of the World Radio Conference. The main issues have been co-existence between MSS feeder link services and RLAN operation in the 5150 - 5250 MHz band and RLAN with Earth Exploratory Satellite Services in the 5250 - 5350 and 5470 - 5725 MHz bands.

I ended up being contacted by a local start up satellite service company, asking me some basic regulatory questions. However, the one new issue that will effect satellite services is a proposed tax on the service by the state of Ohio.

The state of Ohio, New York and several others are now considering a special tax on satellite services. And who will pay this tax? Me, the system user. What the state of Ohio is considering is even more perplexing because they are proposing to opt out cable providers from these same taxes for the same services.

The argument as I read it in the paper is that the cable companies already are taxed via a franchise fee so they already pay tax in their mind. I always thought that was the cost they paid to the local administrations in order to gain the rights to connect up the community and be the sole provider of the cable service, as well as offset any infrastructure support costs.

The next argument is that the cable providers carry local community channels and that the satellite services do not carry these stations. The reason that the cable companies carry the local programs is that they are required to by law. The reason the satellite operators do not is in part because of restrictions placed on them via the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act and re-transmitting over the air broadcasts that can be received locally.

They also ignore that in some cases the only available service is satellite because cable companies will not provide connectivity to an area because of it's remoteness or they do not offer the services that the subscriber wants. So even if the cable company has paid it's franchise fee, it still may not be required to connect the outlying remote areas so the person has no choice but satellite service. Yet it is this person who will bear the tax.

However these facts will not stop state legislators from trying to regulate, one way or the other, services or impose taxes on alternative broadband and video services that they have no regulatory control over. Unfortunately the issue is being waged quietly in the state houses and it will be the subscriber who, if they fail to act, will end up footing the bill.

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