The number of television shows that feature people building homes off the grid amazes me.
The rationale for getting off the grid is to get away from all the noise, congestion, and the demands of life in the city, including people. These people generate their electrical power with solar panels; they use wood-burning stoves to cook and heat their homes. I have seen pictures of helicopters flying-in the building materials. They are near streams full of fish, and game abounds. I find it ironic that people looking to get off the grid are on global TV (on the grid) showing how they are doing it. But what if living off the grid is not a matter of choice, but is one’s only option?
I spent 18 years with the youth group in my church going to Preston County, West Virginia, working on Appalachian people’s homes. This county is one of the poorest in the nation. We went in August, lived as a community, and our job was to try and make as many homes as possible safe and dry for the winter.
Most of the people for whom we worked didn’t choose to live off the grid; they had no choice. Their life is a struggle and living off the grid is not fashionable or trendy; it is their only way to survive. When we were there, the cell service was terrible and still is today. We would wander all over the small town trying to find a cell signal, most of the time to no avail. We were told by the locals, “The tower is on top of the hill, and you’re in the valley. It doesn’t reach down here.”
As we traveled from our base to the work sites, we could see a few houses with satellite dishes; some were on the roofs, but most were on the ground. I asked a man why his dish was on the ground? He responded, “I had to choose between the TV or food for my family.” I asked about cable, and the response was the companies couldn’t afford to lay the cable because they wouldn’t get enough paying customers to make it profitable.
Now for the gobbledygook: In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously adopted (all five members) a rule for a bandwidth that covered 3550-3650 MHz now, and that would integrate with 3650-3700 MHz in 2020 — a Three-tier Spectrum Access System. One of the tiers, the Priority Access (PALs) were auctioned in 10-megahertz pieces, dynamically assigned. These were also a tract auction — 74,000 census tracts. Finally, there were three-year license terms, with one initial three-year renewal. The current FCC is changing this rule in a way that will harm rural consumers.
This FCC rulemaking got started in 2012 following the release of a report issued by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), which identified the band as a candidate for sharing. Following a rulemaking proceeding, the FCC adopted the 2015 order mentioned above. A further order in 2016 affirmed the three-tier structure and made no changes to the size of auction areas or the length of the terms, but did make a few technical and other changes not germane to the current situation.
In October of last year, the FCC sought comment on proposed changes to the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) rules. All the commissioners except Jessica Rosenworcel voted to seek comment and start the process. The FCC voted two years ago, and again last year, for a set of rules that will govern the market fairly and in a way that helps give rural consumers access to the services they require.
As early as this coming March, the FCC will vote to consider changes to 3.5 CBRS rules. This has become an epic battle between big wireless carriers and rural consumers who want more choices for Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Now back to English. Let me try and translate all of the above: These proposed rules are classic examples of crony capitalism involving large corporations and government, working together to the detriment of rural American consumers. These new changes, I believe, benefit the large mobile providers who will create a 5G-only band to benefit urban areas with only 1G for rural areas.
The nation’s most extensive household survey, the American Community Survey, produces a range of statistics for all of the nation’s 3,142 counties. For three-fourths of all counties with populations too small to produce single-year figures (2,323 counties), it is the only available data set. Rural areas cover 97 percent of the nation’s land area, but contain only 19.3 percent of the population (about 60 million people).
The numbers show that broadband and cell phone companies have a high concentration of people in urban areas, covering just 3 percent of the country’s land area. It seems to me that some basic level of reliable cell phone and Internet service should be available to rural America.
The Associated Press reported that Hillary Clinton won 487 counties nationwide, compared with 2,626 for President Donald Trump. It's time that the voters in those 2,626 counties started calling their senators and congressmen and the White House, telling them that they want a fair shake and want reliable cell phone and internet service in their homes. In the election of 2016, Donald Trump won 62 million votes; rural America has an estimated 60 million people; perhaps they can make their voices heard.
Dan Perkins is an author of both thrillers and children’s books. He appears on over 1,100 radio stations. Mr. Perkins appears regularly on international TV talk shows, he is current events commentator for seven blogs, and a philanthropist with his foundation for American veterans, Songs and Stories for Soldiers, Inc. More information about him, his writings, and other works are available on his website, DanPerkins.guru. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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