Hearing on Loan Guarantees and Rural Television Service

Prepared Testimony of the Honorable Craig Thomas (R-WY)
United States Senator

11:00 a.m., Wednesday, February 9, 2000 - Dirksen 628

I would like to lend my support for the rural loan guarantee provision to bring local television service to small markets. This proposal will bring hope to over 50 million homes in 170 TV markets who otherwise would not receive local signals via satellite.

I want to commend the work of Senator Burns for his work on this provision. Like the state of Wyoming, Montana has many small, rural television markets that will not get any local signals via satellite without the rural provision. I also want to thank Chairman Gramm for his committment to work on this issue and to craft a fiscally responsible plan that will ensure all consumers - especially those in medium and small markets - have access to local broadcast signals via satellite. Last year, I worked with Senator Burns on a letter that attracted a broad-base of support from our colleagues for this type of proposal. I know this sentiment is shared on both sides of the aisle.

Without this plan, only the largest television markets in America will receive local-into-local service authorized by this legislation. These are the profitable cities like New York and Los Angeles. Under the best case scenario, only 40 of the 210 TV markets will have local service via satellite. None of these markets are in my state of Wyoming.

Unfortunately, because of distance or geography, not everyone can get a local TV signal, even with a rooftop antenna. The rural provision in this legislation will spur technologies that will bring news and information via satellite to consumers who cannot get a decent over-the-air signal.

We have very harsh weather in Wyoming and we rely on local channels as an important way to receive important local news, storm information, road reports and school closings.

Some have raised concerns about the potential costs of this provision to the American taxpayer. I will put my record as a fiscal conservative up against anyone in the Senate. I am not going to support any program that will jeopardize the Treasury or the American taxpayer. I am confidant that protections can be written into this proposal that will ensure that taxpayer will not be left holding the bag.

I also believe that USDA's Rural Utilities Service has the expertise to administer this loan guarantee program. I am not aware of any federal agency that has the expertise and loan experience to bring vital telecommunication services to rural America as the Rural Utilities Service.

I appreciate the opportunity to be here today and I look forward to working with Members of the Committee to craft legislation that will ensure constituents in rural America are not left out.

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