Hearing Of The Communications, Technology And The Internet Subcommittee Of The House Energy And Commerce Committee Subject: H.R. 1084, The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act; H.R. 1147, The Local Community Radio Acto Of 2009; And H.R. 1133, The Family Telephone Connection Protection Act Of 2009.
Chaired by: Representative Rick Boucher; Witnesses: Caroline Beasley, Executive Vice President And CFO, Beasley Broadcast Group; David Donovan,
President, Association For Maximum Service Television INC; Peter Doyle, Chief, Audio Division, Media Bureau, Federal Communications Commission; Sheriff David Goad, National Sheriffs' Association; Curtis Hopfinger, Director Of Government And Regulatory Affairs, Securus Technologies; Joel Kelsey, Policy Analyst, Consumers Union; Frank Krough, Morrison And Foerster LLP; Cheryl Leanza, Policy Director, United Church Of Christ, Office Of Communication INC; Jim Starzynski, Principal Engineer And Audio Architect, NBC Universal, Advanced Engineering
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REP. BOUCHER: Good morning to everyone.
Before addressing the matters that are pending before the subcommittee today, I want to note that after years of planning, the digital television transition will take place tomorrow. I want to take this moment to thank the members of the staff of the FCC, to thank the personnel at NTIA and the broad range of stakeholders ranging from the broadcasters and cable to satellite companies, retailers and the manufacturers of converter boxes for all of their effective work that will help to assure a smooth digital transition. While some viewers remain unprepared, the Nielsen survey reported this week that fully 97.5 percent of Americans are now fully prepared and ready for tomorrow's transition. The FCC's call centers are staffed and ready to provide assistance to viewers who have difficulties connecting. I have every confidence that the transition will be uneventful for the vast majority of Americans.
Today the subcommittee considers three stand-alone measures, the first of which is H.R. 1084, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, otherwise known as the CALM Act, introduced by our colleague from California Ms. Eshoo in order to address a leading consumer complaint, the volume of advertisements on television. All of us have had the experience of enjoying a favorite program only to find ourselves scrambling for the remote control when, at the commercial break, the volume of the television seems to double. I've co-sponsored the CALM Act and I suspect that, if enacted, this measure will become as popular as the legislation that created the "do not call" list. I'll look forward to learning why the phenomenon of loud commercials exists and what we can do as policymakers in order to address that phenomenon.
H.R. 1133, the Family Telephone Connection Protection Act, introduced by Chairman Rush, would address the serious matter of the rates that are paid by prison inmates for collect calling services. The inmates are literally a captive audience. They typically have no option for using the telephone to contact family and legal counsel other than making their calls from a prison payphone. The rates that are charged for those services are enormous and include not only a high per-minute rate for the service but also per-call connection fees that can be as high as four dollars per call. The burden of these charges often falls on those who are least able to afford the charges, the inmates who have virtually no income and the members of their families who frequently face their own financial hardships. Phone service for inmates is a necessity. It is not a luxury. It is often their only link to family and attorneys, and therefore we hope that this morning the witnesses will tell us what may be done to ensure that prison inmates have access to his very necessary service at rates that are reasonably affordable.
The third bill that we're hearing this morning is H.R. 1147, the Local Community Radio Act, introduced by our colleagues Representatives Doyle and Terry. It would provide additional opportunities for low-power FM radio stations by allowing their operation on third adjacent channels to full-power radio stations. LPFM stations are typically community-based nonprofits. They operate usually at 100 watts or less of broadcast power and have a broadcast reach of only a few miles. They play a truly unique role in our media firmament. They are more likely than their full-power counterparts to be owned by women or by minorities. They're an important forum for local clergy, for politicians, for civil rights-focused programs and community leaders who seek to weigh in on local matters of public interest. They are also commonly found at our institutions of higher education across the United States. While expanding opportunities for more low-power FM stations is desirable, we must be certain that expanded low-power FM service is implemented in a way that does not jeopardize existing broadcast services, including noncommercial full- power FM stations. This morning we're interested in how low-power FM stations on third adjacencies can protect existing services, including FM radio, emerging HD radio and radio-reading services.
I want to welcome our witnesses and thank them for their attendance here this morning. We will turn to your testimony shortly, but at this time, I am pleased to recognize other members of the subcommittee for their opening statements.
And I'll call on the gentleman from Florida, the ranking Republican on our subcommittee, Mr. Stearns.
REP. CLIFF STEARNS (R-FL): Good morning and thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thanks for having this hearing. We have nine alert, ready-to-go witnesses and it's quite impressive.
As you mentioned, we have three distinct pieces of legislation we're looking at. I'll go with one that you sort of mentioned in the last, which is H.R. 1133, the Family Telephone Connection Protection Act.
As mentioned, it would require the FCC to regulate telephone services to inmates in correctional facilities. Typically, a single carrier is selected through a competitive bidding process to provide the prisoner his phone service, and although services and rates vary by state or facility, inmates are often limited to making a collect call and the rates charged are frequently a bit higher to help pay for these collect calls nationwide.
Supporters of this legislation argue that prison call fees are too high, costing families too much to keep in touch with their relatives in jail and making it harder to rehabilitate criminals. Our nation's sheriffs have a unique perspective, however, since over 80 percent of the nation's local jails are simply under the jurisdiction of the sheriffs.
So it's very good, Mr. Chairman, we have them here to testify, to give their side.
This bill could lead to a prohibition on the payment of commissions to the correctional facilities by providers of the phone service.
These commissions go to providing security measures to monitor nonprivileged calls, to prevent illicit activities and to pay for the cost of the telephone system itself. Without the commissions, these correctional facilities will either have to ask taxpayers to front the cost of the phone system or completely dismantle the program. In addition, these commissions are a main source of funding for many beneficial inmate programs, such as adult education, anti-recidivism programs, jail ministries and substance abuse programs. For example, in New York, some funding from telephone commissions were used to provide free bus rides to the facilities for inmate family members.
I certainly understand the hardship that many inmates' families have to endure. However, and frankly, as local and state budgets get tighter and tighter, not allowing these commissions might force correctional facilities to eliminate many important programs.
Mr. Chairman, the second bill under discussion is H.R. 1147, the Local Community Radio Act. The FCC created low-power FM station service in 2000 to promote local programming. At the end of 2000, Congress restricted how close low-power stations may operate to full- power stations due to, chiefly, the interference concerns. As a result, fewer low-power stations can be authorized. This bill would simply repeal the statutory limits.
I support the idea of allowing more low-power stations to be licensed. However, such a sweeping policy change needs to balance the potential impact on full-power FM stations, namely interference. Third-adjacent protection exists for a reason, to guard against such interference. There is a policy already in place to allow low-power FM stations to operate in the FM band with third-adjacent protection. The FCC has licensed more than 865 low-power operators, with more having been granted construction permits or that have applications that are pending.
As we consider H.R. 1147, we need to fully examine the impact on full-power FM stations and the issue of interference. A broad blanket policy change may be unnecessary at this time. I hope to work with the sponsors of this bill as we move forward.
And last, Mr. Chairman, we are examining H.R. 1804, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, and I compliment the author of the bill with the word CALM Act. I'm sure they worked hard to get that to come together. This bill would require the FCC to mandate rules within one year prohibiting commercials from being excessively noisy or strident. The issue is more complex than it appears. Many different entities are responsible for producing and distributing the content consumers see and hear today. Each element may be recorded and provided at different volume levels. Moreover, shows and movies have a dynamic sound range to cover everything from a quiet scene to an explosion. Commercials, meanwhile, tend to have a narrow sound range. Volume levels are typically set for the programming, which can throw off the volume levels for commercials.
Two years ago, the Advanced Television Systems Committee established a subgroup on digital television loudness. This subgroup consists of the leading experts on audio technology from all the major broadcast networks, cable, production and postproduction, manufacture and education in the United States of America. Since it was established, these audio technology experts have crafted a hard-fought consensus on the recommended practices that should be employed across the TV industry to deal with TV loudness concerns.
Mr. Chairman, I trust the collective wisdom of these technical experts to craft a solution to the TV loudness issue. The subgroup's hard work should not be undone by legislation. One suggestion would be to revise the bill simply so that the FCC rulemaking only commences if industry has not addressed the issue within a certain amount of time. So I think we have, perhaps, a solution to our problem with this Advanced Television Systems Committee and all the hard work they've done in this area.
So, Mr. Chairman, I look forward to the hearing, the witnesses, and I welcome again the opportunity to ask them questions.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you very much, Mr. Stearns, for a very thoughtful statement.
The gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Doyle, is recognized for five minutes -- I'm sorry, for two minutes.
REP. MIKE DOYLE (D-PA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this legislative hearing that includes the bill I introduced with my good friend Lee Terry, H.R. 1147, the Local Community Radio Act.
You know, it's appropriate to hear this hearing this morning. I heard on the radio today that today is the 74th anniversary of the first FM broadcast. Students of that story know that the dominant AM broadcaster, RCA, successfully lobbied the FCC to move the FM band, "obsoleting" the inventor's burgeoning radios, destroying his company, leading the inventor, Edward Armstrong, to suicide and delaying FM's rollout for decades.
We're almost full circle here today, but this story starts a decade ago. In 2000, the Federal Communications Commission started to create new community radio stations run by local schools, churches, community groups and governments. They did this because their mission from Congress is not to help entrench lobbies but to make sure as many Americans as possible have access to the public's airwaves to fulfill a basic human need, the right to communicate. Thousands of peoples and groups wanted these new stations and applied. Almost immediately, incumbent broadcasters warned this subcommittee that these new community radio stations would create, and I quote, "oceans of interference, harming listeners' efforts to listen to the stations they already know and enjoy."
So, in response to the broadcasters' concern, Congress called timeout and asked for an independent study to examine this issue. The premise of Congress's decision to order the study was that if the study confirmed the FCC's findings, Congress would remove its prohibition on the FCC and allow it to fully implement community radio. Well, the study came back, agreed with the FCC that these stations can be created without harming listeners, and through two unanimous bipartisan votes the FCC has twice now recommended to Congress to do so. I'm asking Congress to keep its part of the bargain today.
After Congress limited community radio in 2001, several groups in my district, the city of Pittsburgh and some working-class suburbs, lost their chance to go on the air.
I'll point out that late last month, Mr. Chairman, Pittsburgh's only minority-owned station, and the city's only hip hop and R&B station, sold for $9 million. The new owners plan a format change and now no one else can connect with urban radio listeners in my district. It's almost like incumbent broadcasters wrote the line that William Shakespeare actually wrote in Hamlet. Give every man his ear, but few his voice.
Mr. Chairman, we need to make sure that more Americans get a chance to exercise their voice. We must pass this bill, and we must bring low-power back to the people.
I yield back.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you very much, Mr. Doyle.
The gentleman from Nebraska, Mr. Terry, is recognized for two minutes.
REP. LEE TERRY (R-NE): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing.
I appreciate my friend, Mr. Doyle, and associate myself with your Shakespearian opening statement.
And I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank several that have worked hard for this bill, like Hannah Sassaman, Corey Hoffman and Peter Tridish, Prometheus Radio, Michael Bracy of the Future of Music Coalition, the band OK Go, and our very own witness today, Cheryl Leanza, with the United Church of Christ.
There's numerous benefits by low-power radio stations to smaller communities. And what I mean by smaller communities is both in an urban sense, in a suburban and even a rural sense. It gives people a voice to their particular community that they may not have now. And as Mike pointed out, the studies have shown that we can technically do low-power FM without stepping on the signals of the higher-power stations.
Now, with that, Mr. Chairman, I would like to enter into the record the 100 Black Men of Omaha, who are interested, as an organization, of providing low-power FM within the African-American community of Omaha, to provide a platform for discussion of community issues. I ask unanimous consent that I can submit that for the record.
REP. BOUCHER: Without objection.
REP. TERRY: And, with that, once again, thank you.
But I can't resist on 1133 to say that, is this the definition of a captive customer?
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Terry.
The gentleman from California, Mr. McNerney, is recognized for two minutes.
REP. JERRY MCNERNEY (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing and thank the witnesses for coming forth today.
I'm a co-sponsor of 1147, the Local Community Radio Act. I believe that it's important that the Federal Communication Commission provide equitable rules for low-power FM stations. Our smaller stations deserve to be heard, to be able to provide community-focused programming that serves all of our listeners' needs.
Concerning the CALM Act, we've all experienced unpleasant sudden volume changes during TV programming. The problem was identified more than 50 years ago and many other nations are already adopting standards.
Now, there's one experience I had as a young boy. I was a teenager. One of the very Sunday afternoons that my father allowed me to watch TV, which wasn't every Sunday afternoon, I was watching a horror show in the den and he was out barbecuing. And the advertisement came on and he came running in, wanted to know what was happening, because it was so loud he could hear all the screaming outside. It was somebody selling furniture. So I've experienced this. It will be interesting to see what we can do about it.
So, with that, I yield back the balance of my time.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you, Mr. McNerney.
The gentleman from Oregon, Mr. Walden, is recognized for two minutes.
REP. GREG WALDEN (R-OR): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I appreciate the opportunity to get the testimony today from witnesses on these various bills.
I'd like to submit for the record a letter I received from Jefferson Public Radio with regards to H.R. 1147 and some issues that they are raising that I think are very legitimate.
REP BOUCHER: Without objection.
REP. WALDEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Jefferson Radio probably has more translators covering a more rigorous mountain environment, providing public broadcasting in southern Oregon, than probably anywhere else in the country. And they're concerned about the effect that H.R. 1147 would have regarding displacement of their translators. They're further concerned about the language in H.R. 1147 which would give authority to the FCC to go ever further than the third adjacent channel relaxation in the rulemakings. And so these are issues that I think the committee needs to look at very carefully. Having been in the broadcast business for more than 21 years, I'm not now a licensee, I share the concern of many who want to make sure that, as you move forward on adding additional signals in the marketplace, if there isn't disruptive interference, especially, too, looking at old receivers versus new receivers. There are legacy radios that aren't as selective as some of the new ones in terms of listening quality and differentiating among the signals and so I think these are issues we need to look at carefully before we move forward.
I'd finally add to the record, too, just a note that I hope the FCC is doing proper and appropriate oversight over LPFMs. They're not supposed to be commercial stations. And it would be interesting to know just kind of the oversight you're doing to see, are they operating, in some cases as if they were for-profit commercial, because I don't think that was the intent of LPFM nor is it, I'm sure, of the sponsors of this legislation that they would merge into a full commercial operation.
So thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to the testimony.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you very much, Mr. Walden.
The gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Stupak, is recognized for two minutes.
REP. BART STUPAK (D-MI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm going to be in and out all day, but I did want to have a few comments, especially on H.R. 1147. In all honesty, I'm not real excited by that legislation that's authored by my good friend from Pittsburgh, Mr. Doyle. I understand why this low power legislation is so important to him. It's probably because it reminds him of his Pittsburgh Penguin front line of Malkin and Crosby. That's the low- power line they have in hockey.
REP. DOYLE: See you on Friday. (Laughter.)
REP. STUPAK: And I'm sure if, for some reason, some bad calls, my Redwings come up a little bit short, I'm sure Mr. Doyle will be in full power telling me about it on Friday and Saturday.
I have a minute left, if you care to respond, there, Mr. Doyle. (Laughter.)
REP. WALDEN: Will the gentleman yield?
I think you're just going to get interference from him.
REP. STUPAK: Yeah. (Laughter.) It will be interference.
REP. DOYLE: Well, I just want to say to my friend that on Monday I'll buy the beer for you to cry in. (Laughter.)
REP. STUPAK: It will take more than beer, Doyle.
I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you, Mr. Stupak.
The gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Rush, chairman of the subcommittee on Consumer Protection, is recognized for two minutes.
REP. BOBBY L. RUSH (D-IL): Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I really am delighted to be here and I'm also delighted not to have to participate in the previous discussion. The Blackhawks have been low power for a long time now. (Laughter.)
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for holding today's hearing on these important bills.
I would like to limit my limited time on remarks on H.R. 1133. I introduced this bill with the sincerest concerns for those innocent families and close friends of those individuals who find themselves incarcerated in our jails and prisons. Like you and me, they are telephone services consumers, having the same needs when it comes to hearing their loved ones' voices and maintaining their regular contact with their families, just as you and I are and many in this room are.
Their personal lives, their households and their budget concerns are complicated by having to choose between accepting a collect phone call from a loved one in prison, which can cost up to five times as much as the same call that you and I would have to make. They have to live with the real-life consequences of that choice, which could mean missing a car or rent or mortgage payment or not having enough money to buy groceries.
There are typically three ways that an inmate can make and complete a telephone call in most state and county correctional institutions -- either prepaid collect or prepaid by the inmate, which, in most cases, is paid indirectly by the inmate's family through deposits into their prison debit accounts. For collect calls, the billed party is usually charged a billing calls recovery fee of several dollars for each month that collect call charges are made. On prepaid collect accounts, the inmate telephone services provider collects a fee, usually between ($)5 and $10, in order to process credit card and check payments over the phone. And for prepaid inmate calls, inmate telephone services providers charge in the neighborhood of $1 for each completed interstate telephone call.
Mr. Chairman, it is patently unfair that families and friends of incarcerated individuals should have to pay these inflated amounts. Revenue-sharing agreements entered into by inmate telephone service providers and the correctional authorities they service are the primary cause for this egregious disparity. Some states are collecting commissions from providers of inmate telephone services at rates that are as high as 40 to 65 percent of gross billing inmate telephone revenues. These commissions continue to have the effect of substantially inflating rates for collect, prepaid collect and debit interstate and intrastate telephone calls. Simply put, they represent a pass-through on calls from the correctional facilities and jails to inmates and his or her families.
Accordingly, and most notably, my bill, H.R. 1133, focuses on these commission arrangements. It would prohibit the payment of commissions to administrators of correctional institutions and the Department of Corrections. It would also require the FCC to promulgate rules that ensure interstate rates for calls that incarcerated individuals make while in confinement are just, reasonable and nondiscriminatory. Finally, it would require providers of inmate telephone services to offer both collect calling and debit account services, which is a cheaper option, according to pay telephone service providers, because it mitigates the risk of bad debt associated with collect calling.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you for holding this hearing and I'm glad to have the witnesses here to testify on behalf of my bill. Thank you.
And I yield back the balance of my time.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you very much, Mr. Rush.
The gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Butterfield, is recognized for two minutes.
REP. G.K. BUTTERFIELD (D-NC): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for convening this hearing.
And I particularly want to thank Chairman Rush for introducing this legislation. This is not the first Congress in which he's introduced this bill. He's done it in Congresses past and I thank him for his sensitivity to this issue.
As most of you know, I served as a trial judge in my state for many years before coming to Congress. I sat on the highest trial bench in my state and presided over felony cases and very serious crimes. As a consequence of my work, there were many people that I had the unfortunate and unpleasant task of incarcerating. But I want to tell you from personal experience that the telephone system between the jails and the prisons and communities is really in need of revamping. It would break my heart when mothers and grandmothers and family members would call me from time to time and tell me that they had -- these are poor people who would have 3(00) and 400-dollar telephone bills because their loved ones would call collect from the jail. And what does a grandmother say when her grandchild is calling her collect from the jail? The only thing she knows to do is accept the charges.
And so this legislation that we have before us today is certainly a step in the right direction. It is not the ideal legislation. I wish we could do more. I've always said that one remedy for the problem would be to create a debit card, just like we have here in the cafeteria. Whenever I want to go get a meal, I go downstairs and I put this debit card in and I get my meal. Now, we could do this in the jails and make it very effective.
Now, the other thing that we could do would have cell phones in the prisons and in the jails that would be controlled, not unlimited cell phones, but the prisoners could get cell phones for 30 minutes a day and use those cell phones, and at the conclusion of the call, they could turn in the cell phones and they could locked up and kept away from the prisoners.
So thank you, Mr. Rush.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for having this hearing today.
This is a step in the right direction. I yield back.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you very much, Mr. Butterfield.
We turn now to our panel of witnesses and again thank each of them for their attendance here this morning. Without objection, your prepared written statement will be made a part of the record and we would welcome your oral presentation. And in the interest of time, given the large number of witnesses who have joined us this morning, we would ask that your oral statements be kept to approximately five minutes.
I'll just say a brief word of introduction about each of our witnesses.
Mr. Frank Krogh is an attorney with the firm of Morrison & Foerster, representing Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants. Mr. Curtis Hopfinger is director of government and regulatory affairs at Securus Technologies. Mr. David Goad is the sheriff of Alleghany County, Maryland and president of the National Sheriffs' Association. And each of those witnesses will be testifying with respect to H.R. 1133, the Family Telephone Connection Protection Act.
Testifying on the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act is Mr. Joel Kelsey, a policy analyst at Consumers Union; Mr. David Donovan, president of the Association for Maximum Service Television; and Mr. Jim Starzynski, principal engineer and audio architect for NBC Universal.
Testifying on the Local Community Radio Act is Mr. Peter Doyle, chief of the audio division of the Media Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission; Ms. Carolyn Beasley, executive director and CFO of Beasley Broadcast Group; and Ms. Cheryl Leanza, policy director of the United Church of Christ Office of Communication.
We welcome each of you.
And Mr. Krogh, we'll be pleased to begin with you. And you will need to turn your microphone on and move it as close as possible to you and we can hear you much better.
MR. KROGH: All right. I think I have it.
Thank you for this opportunity to testify. I am Frank Krogh, an attorney with the firm of Morrison & Foerster, which represents the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs in a proceeding before the Federal Communications Commission addressing prison inmates' long-distance telephone service rates. We've also been coordinating closely in that proceeding with Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants, or CURE. Charlie and Pauline Sullivan, the co-directors of CURE, are here with me today and they have asked me to testify in support of H.R. 1133, the Family Telephone Connection Protection Act of 2009.
On behalf of CURE, I want to thank Subcommittee Chairman Boucher and Congressman Rush, the sponsor of H.R. 1133, for their leadership in trying to solve this problem of unaffordable inmate telephone rates. The long-distance telephone rates charged to prison inmates and their families are exorbitant and make it harder for inmates to maintain the critical family and community connections that are needed for their rehabilitation. H.R. 1133 would ensure that the FCC addresses this issue forcefully.
As Chairman Boucher and Congressman Rush explained, prison inmates and their families pay some of the highest long-distance rates in the country.
The problem arises from the bidding process to win these exclusive service contracts. The competing service providers generally are expected to offer generous commissions to the prison administrator or state correctional agency or the Treasury for the right to provide the exclusive service to the facilities or the prison system. The winning bidder is typically the service provider that offers the highest commission payment, not the lowest service rate. So then the winning bidder then has to charge excessive rates for the inmate calls in order to cover these huge commission payments of 40 to 65 percent.
As a result, you've got these tremendous collect call charges, often as high as ($)3.95 for a service charge, plus a per-minute charge of 89 cents. And I've even seen inmate collect rates of $4.28 plus 98 cents a minute, as opposed to the typical rate available to residential subscribers or calling card customers of a few pennies per minute.
At current rates, one hour of conversation a week can run up a monthly phone bill of $300, which is a huge financial burden for the innocent families, low-income families and loved ones, receiving and paying for inmate collect calls. These rates deprive inmates and their family members of their most reasonable means, sometimes the only possible means, of communication, and strain the family and community rehabilitative ties that reduce recidivism, preserve families and ease prison tensions.
The need to act on this issue has become widely recognized. The American Bar Association, the American Correctional Association and a report released in 2006 by a diverse National Prison Reform Commission, which included correctional officials, all recommend that inmate telephone rates be drastically reduced in order to reinforce family and community ties.
Now, as Congressman Stearns pointed out, in some cases this revenue, commission revenue, is used for prisoner welfare programs. But that cannot justify the charging of unreasonable rates. You can't violate federal law on the grounds that the profit is going to charitable purposes. This is a regressive tax on some of the poorest people in America.
And this also means that these programs, these prisoner welfare programs, are not free at all. They're being fully funded right now by the prisoners and their families. Those families and prisoners should have a choice of having fewer programs and more communication. I think if you gave them that choice, they'd choose more reasonable telephone rates so that they could communicate more. They should not be deprived of that choice through a regressive tax on their telephone calls.
Now, H.R. 1133 confirms the need to reduce inmate telephone rates and would require that the FCC consider imposing maximum interstate inmate calling rates, a requirement that inmate telephone service providers offer a debit calling option, which is cheaper than, lower cost than collect calling, and a prohibition of commission payments. The ABA has endorsed the proposed legislation, as have leading newspapers.
Some of the remedies specified in H.R. 1133 are also proposed in the pending FCC petition filed by Martha Wright, the grandmother of a former prisoner, and other petitioners. The Wright petitioners have demonstrated that it's entirely feasible for interstate long-distance telephone services to be provided profitably to prisoners at rates far below those prevailing at most prison facilities. For example, interstate inmate long-distance rates in Florida, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire and New York correctional facilities are way below typical interstate inmate rates.
Before New York eliminated its 57.5 percent commission rate in 2007, the interstate collect rate for prisoners in New York correctional facilities was 16 cents a minute plus a $3 dollar connection charge, which is equivalent to 41 cents a minute for a 12- minute call. Now, with no commission payment, the rate is 6.8 cents per minute plus $1.28 connection charge, which is equivalent to 17 and a half cents a minute for a 12-minute call. Michigan previously had an interstate rate equivalent to $1.16 per minute for a 15-minute collect or debit call. Now the debit and collect rates are 12 cents and 15 cents per minute, respectively, with no per-call charge. So it's quite possible to have much lower rates and have the service provided at a profit, which service providers are quite eager to do.
REP. BOUCHER: Mr. Krogh, let me ask if you could wrap up. Your time has expired.
MR. KROGH: Oh, yes. I think that H.R. 1133 would ensure that the FCC consider the remedies proposed in the -- by the Wright petitioners at the FCC and reaffirms the FCC's authority to impose those remedies. The bill would therefore help bring about prison inmate telephone service reform, and CURE urges its swift passage.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you very much.
MR. KROGH: Thank you for your time. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you.
MR. HOPFINGER: Good morning, Chairman Boucher and members of the committee. Thank you for inviting me to speak here today regarding inmate telecommunications and H.R. 1133.
My name is Curt Hopfinger and I'm the director of regulatory and government affairs for Securus Technologies. Securus is a Dallas, Texas-based company that provides inmate telecommunications through our wholly owned subsidiaries to correctional institutions in 44 states. We serve approximately 2,600 locations that include county, city and state-operated facilities. In addition, Securus is one of the leading providers and patent holders of technologies necessary to provide robust, reliable, and, above all, secure inmate telecommunications.
My remarks will be brief. My aim is to provide the committee with further context and information regarding this highly specialized industry and the role that inmate telephone communications providers play in assisting law enforcement in meeting the demands in the correctional setting.
Today Securus is in a highly competitive industry. Today we compete with numerous providers of inmate telecommunication services for contracts with correctional authorities that are put out for public bid. It is not uncommon for as many as eight different correctional service providers to bid for the same contract. This bidding process, which is governed by the procurement codes and regulations applicable to the area in which the correctional facility is located, forces all participants to present their very best menu of technologies, security features and, above all, telephone call prices in order to secure a contract.
As many law enforcement officials have explained to the FCC and elsewhere, the inmate telephone system is a critical tool for maintaining security both inside and outside the correctional environment. Today our industry provides law enforcement with a greater choice and quality of investigative tools than ever before.
I will provide just one example of how inmate telephone systems have assisted law enforcement officials in preventing crime and protecting the public. My written testimony has another. This example comes from one of our counties that is served by Securus Technologies. Grant County has informed us that the Federal Bureau of Investigation routinely listens to the recordings of Grant County inmate calls to assist in finding al Qaeda terrorist cells. Thus, even at the county level, secure inmate calling platforms are providing the necessary tools for assisting and preserving homeland security.
All of the features and services I have described above, of course, come at a cost. In this specialized corner of the telecommunications industry, those costs are large in absolute figures and also in terms of the proportion of revenue that these costs represent. The requirement to provide customized products to law enforcement and correctional institutions causes inmate telephone service providers to incur substantial costs. In addition, it prevents our industry from enjoying the real economies of scale like local exchange companies and long-distance companies that serve the general public.
I am pleased to tell you that in 2007, Securus began deploying a system called the Secure Call Platform, or SCP, which is a centralized system that requires less reliance on hardware and software at the correctional facility itself.
Now that SCP has been deployed, our network efficiencies have improved and our calling rates have decreased significantly at several locations. I must, however, make it clear that SCP is neither appropriate or feasible at all correctional facilities. The multimillion-dollar investment by Securus that made this new technology possible is, however, indicative of the fact that the industry is competitive and that law enforcement, inmates and families of inmates are, in fact, reaping the benefits.
Having given you this brief background on inmate telephones and how they work and are deployed, I'd like to say a few words about H.R. 1133. Securus is concerned that H.R. 1133 will have the unintended consequences of hindering competition, compromising security and actually decreasing the availability of telephone service for inmates. In brief, this legislation would make it more difficult for Securus and all inmate telephone service providers to compete, to innovate and to even maintain their existence in the inmate telephone service market.
First, the legislation would require the FCC to set a federal rate cap. Securus is concerned that a federal rate cap would inevitably impose below-cost rates for some facility locations and certainly for facility locations in high-cost areas. In addition, a mandatory rate cap could leave such a slender margin of return that, for many contracts, few service providers could risk putting in a bid.
Second, the legislation would impose facility-based competition at the individual facility sites. This mandatory unbundling could require installation and maintenance of two or more redundant inmate calling platforms at every facility. This multiprovider scheme would lead to a host of administrative and security problems. In addition, it would increase the cost to the service providers and the facilities themselves. These increased costs would have to be recovered by those paying for inmate telephone calls.
Third, the legislation would require an inmate telephone service provider to complete calls to persons regardless of whether the provider has any billing agreement with the called party or the called party's local carrier. I assure the committee that Securus and the industry as a whole are making great efforts to establish billing relationships with called parties, whether through their local residence, local exchange carrier or via billing arrangements directly with the called parties. A federal mandate requiring the completion of all inmate calls, however, will discourage both inmates and called parties from allowing Securus to set up billing relationships with them. The result would be an unprecedented situation in which a telephone company is forced to give away service for free.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you, Mr. Hopfinger. Your time has expired.
SHERIFF GOAD: Good morning, Mr. Chairman Boucher, Ranking Member Stearns and members of the committee. My name is David A. Goad and I'm currently the sheriff of Alleghany County, Maryland and president of the National Sheriffs' Association.
The National Sheriffs' Association represents 3,000 elected sheriffs across the country and more than 20,000 law enforcement professionals, making us one of the largest law enforcement associations in the nation. I am pleased to have the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss our strong opposition to H.R. 1133, the Family Telephone Connection Protection Act of 2009, and the negative potential dangers that this legislation may have on jails and prisons throughout the United States.
As you may be aware, sheriffs play a unique role in the criminal justice system. Over 99 percent of the sheriffs are elected and oftentimes serve as the chief law enforcement officer of their respective counties. In addition to providing traditional policing within their respective counties, sheriffs also manage local jails and provide court security. Consequently, we have a keen understanding of the needs of the criminal justice system as well as our local communities we serve.
Currently, over 80 percent of the nation's local jails are under the jurisdiction of sheriffs. While operating our nation's jails, sheriffs must process thousands of arrests and are responsible for detaining tens of thousands of inmates nationwide on any given day. The amount of time, effort, resources and funding necessary to manage these jails is quite substantial. Furthermore, sheriffs need to work with the knowledge that the safety of the public, as well as their deputies, is always guarded and held in the highest priority. Therefore, it is necessary for sheriffs to have control over and to have the ability to monitor the activities that transpire within our jails, including the communication that inmates have with their connections outside of the facility.
The Family Telephone Connection Protection Act of 2009 would alter a jail's inmate telephone service procedures and amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require the FCC to prescribe rules regulating inmate telephone service. While the bill requires that these regulations do not jeopardize legitimate security and penological interests, it indicates that a reduction or elimination of revenue derived by correctional institutions for the receipt of commissions does not constitute, jeopardize or affect legitimate security standards or penological interests. H.R. 1133 also indicates that no provider of inmate telephone services may block or refuse to carry a call placed by an inmate on the grounds that the provider has no contractual or other arrangement with the local carrier servicing the call recipient. The National Sheriffs' Association believes that this legislation would severely hamper the ability of all the sheriffs and law enforcement officials to effectively manager our nation's jails.
Under H.R. 1133, correctional institutions would be required to provide inmates with a choice of carriers while placing telephone calls. This proposal would amount to nothing less than the complete dismantling of an existing system of inmate phone service. Under the current system, one inmate phone service provider is contractually committed to monitoring and, of course, control inmate calling for security and law enforcement purposes. Carrier choice would cause the facility to lose control of the monitoring and tracking of inmate calling, which frequently results in criminal activity and massive fraud. Moreover, carrier choice would severely hamper the provider's ability to assist law enforcement officials with ongoing criminal investigations, and, of course, to monitor the phone calls of suspected terrorists. These are dangerous individuals who continue to conduct criminal activities and operations on the outside via phone while they are incarcerated in our local facilities.
Such activities could also include threats against any testifying witness or against any law enforcement personnel and their families. Consequently, the inability to monitor such calls could have a detrimental and potentially deadly impact. It could place unsuspecting individuals in danger and could prevent witnesses from coming forward to testify. Therefore, sheriffs' ability to easily and effectively monitor inmate telephone calls not only assists law enforcement criminal investigations but significantly reduces the harm to law-abiding citizens throughout the community.
During the 110th Congress and the current 111th Congress, there have been strong emphasis on rehabilitating incarcerated offenders and ensuring their successful re-entries into society. Local jails are attempting these efforts, however, as sheriffs' office budgets have been significantly reduced or tightened in recent years. Sheriffs have not been able to utilize funding for anything other than personal or necessary equipment and technology. Therefore, sheriffs rely on various services, such as inmate telephone commissions, to bring in revenue to fund and operate jailhouse treatment, rehabilitation and re-entry programs.
I would like to interject a few examples, such as in the state of Maryland, which has this revenue advantage. As correctional administrators, we realized a significant funding loss. My facility, which is a 225-bed facility in western Maryland, realized approximately ($)64,000 a year. Other facilities, such as Hartford County, ($)170,000; Washington County in the state of Maryland, a deficit of approximately ($)134,000 in lost revenue.
Funds generated from commissions on inmate telephones are not a source of income for correctional administrators, as we are only allowed to spend such funds on matters relating to inmate welfare, providing undergarments, socks, so on for inmates and so on. I would add that these commissions on phone calls are not unlike a sales tax. In a sense, then, the proceeds are entirely devoted to the betterment of the citizen population, and, in this instance, it's our inmates. I further wish to state that cutting such funds will have a negative effect on inmates in every correctional facility across the United States.
Sheriffs recognize the maintenance of communications with families is a positive influence on the inmates' integration back into the larger society after release. As such, the National Sheriffs' Association endorses fair and reasonable rates for inmate calls and we expect all sheriffs to require service providers to adhere to FCC rate guidelines. Furthermore, the National Sheriffs' Association continues to be an advocate for re-entry initiatives proposed by Congress. However, we strongly oppose the proposals within H.R. 1133 as they will compromise public safety, put additional burdens on taxpayers and force correctional institutions to eliminate a re-entry program and access to telephones for inmates.
REP. BOUCHER: Sheriff Goad, thank you.
SHERIFF GOAD: Thank you for the opportunity to be here today and expressing these interests.
Thank you very much.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you, Sheriff Goad.
MR. KELSEY: Chairman Boucher, Ranking Member Stearns and esteemed members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you for the first time today on behalf of Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.
While I'm here to offer consumer viewpoints on H.R. 1084, the CALM Act, I would be remiss if I did not also take this opportunity to highlight Consumers Union's support of the Local Community Radio Act. The current cost of starting up an FM radio station is close to $2.5 million. This financial hurdle often places the station licenses outside of the reach of local hands at a time when consumers are craving more local information than ever before. Efforts to support the LPFM bill are efforts to support the families, workers and places of worship that are the anchors in our communities.
The CALM Act, introduced by Representative Eshoo, addresses a widespread consumer complaint, the abrupt loudness of television advertisements. Representative Eshoo's legislation will go a long way towards preventing advertisements from screaming at consumers in their own living rooms. Specifically, the act would enable the Federal Communications Commission to monitor the volume of advertisements in television programming and determine acceptable levels. This would ensure that the volume levels of commercial breaks are consistent with the volume level of the programming which it brackets.
For years, consumer have noticed that when a television program cuts to commercial breaks, the volume of the television suddenly rises to a shout far beyond the average level of the television program it follows. We've often wondered, are advertisers trying to scare us into remembering the name of their products? This abrupt, sometimes shocking change in volume during advertisements is not a new phenomenon. In fact, consumer complaints about loud commercials began streaming into the FCC in the 1960s. At that point, the agency contended that there was no way to measure the volume level of commercials but did conclude loud commercials were contrary to the public interest and should be avoided.
Throughout the next two decades, the commission launched several fact-finding proceedings, ultimately concluding that although technology to measure the volume of commercials now exists, the perceived loudness of commercials is subjective and would vary from listener to listener. In 1984, the FCC commented, as more is learned about loudness it is likely that more sophisticated control devices will be developed and used by broadcasters. Such action should begin to eliminate complaints of objectionable loudness. Twenty-five years later, complaints continue to flood the commission. In fact, in the 25 quarterly reports that the FCC releases on consumer complaints, 21 of them have listed complaints about loud commercials as among the top consumer grievances in radio and television broadcasting.
We believe this widespread consumer issue, which has spanned 45 years, is a result of more than just the arbitrary or subjective perception of consumers. Rather, it's a real consumer grievance that deserves a new approach in the new era of digital broadcasting. The current FCC guidance regarding loud commercial mostly points consumers towards equipment that they can purchase to stabilize the volume during transitions to commercials. However, not every consumer can afford to purchase TV sets with SmartSound, nor should they have to. Advertisers simply do not have the right to scream at consumers in their own livings rooms and consumers should not have to pay to experience peace and quiet in the sanctity of their own home.
There are several complexities that accompany this action by the agency. In particular, there are differences in the compressed audio levels of television shows and commercials. While the audio of a television show usually matches natural sound more closely, the audio of a commercial has less distinction between loud and soft sounds, resulting in everything seeming much louder. We recommend the FCC focus in on this question in particular and develop an approach that's consistent with the 1979 Notice of Inquiry. In that notice, the agency concedes that a dynamic range of volume is desirable with regard to broadcasting, but, at some point, the amount of deviation from that average audio level begins to conflict with the public's sensibilities.
Placing a national standard on the loudness of commercials is not without an international precedent. In fact, the Library of Congress has noted that legislation addressing this matter has already been adopted in Australia, Brazil, France, Israel, Russia and the United Kingdom. In addition, the International Telecommunications Union has adopted standards that offer guidance to measure the audio levels of different programs.
In conclusion, the CALM Act provides an elegant and common-sense solution to finally ending a 45-year consumer complaint in the United States. Consumers Union endorses the CALM Act as a solid step towards protecting consumers from unduly loud commercial advertisements, commends Representative Eshoo for championing this legislation and urges lawmakers to bring this measure forward.
Thank you very much. I look forward to your questions.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you, Mr. Kelsey.
MR. DONOVAN: Thank you, Chairman Boucher, Ranking Member Stearns --
REP. BOUCHER: Mr. Donovan, you do have a very penetrating voice, which we welcome, but the microphone would be better still.
MR. DONOVAN: I apologize.
Thank you, Chairman Boucher, Ranking Member Stearns -- is this on? -- Ranking Member Stearns and members of the subcommittee for the opportunity today regarding broadcasters' efforts to resolve variations in volume between regular programming and commercials in digital television.
And I also want to thank Representative Eshoo for the introduction of the CALM Act.
MSTV is a nonprofit trade association representing television broadcast stations across the country. In effect, we are the engineering arm of the television broadcast industry and our mission is to ensure that American consumers have the highest quality, interference-free local television. We have been actively involved in the digital television transition since the 1980s. Working with the FCC, we helped develop the digital TV table of allotments. We helped design the digital converter box that is the backbone of the transition. And we've also been actively involved in dealing with the question of loud commercials.
At the outset, MSTV and the broadcast industry want the committee to understand that we fully recognize the problem. We get it. The future of our business, of digital television in particular, depends, in part -- depends, in large measure, on consumer satisfaction. Unexpected changes in volume can ignore consumers and disrupt the viewing experience. The television broadcast industry has every interest in ensuring in the digital age that consumers are not subject to such frustrations.
As a matter of pure economics, we do not want to lose viewers. Our revenue depends on viewers watching programs and commercials.
If viewers skip advertisements or shut off their television altogether, we lose revenue.
To this end, I think there's one important element why digital is different from analog and it's extremely important. The Advanced Television System Committee standard employs Dolby 5.1 digital sound system. The dynamic range of the system, i.e., the highs and the lows of volume, allows for theater-quality sound. In fact, digital television has more than two times the dynamic range of an average analog television set. Consumers who have purchased large-screen television sets in digital now expect the in-home theater experience. Thus, when developing a solution for loud commercials, it is important not to impair the audio range of those sets that have been purchased.
In many respects, you now have motion picture production sound quality in the living room. Unfortunately, the noise in most of our living rooms has not changed over the years. (Laughs.) So you want to make sure you can enjoy the programs without having problems with the loud commercials.
And the industry has made significant progress together, and let me just talk about two things in the context of digital.
First, the technical parameters are established by our primary programming providers. In this regard, the major television broadcast networks, in effect, help create a norm for the entire industry. ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox have each individually implemented policies in the context of digital, policies to attempt to control loud commercials in the context of digital television.
Moreover, the entire industry, including ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, all local stations, began addressing this issue back in 2007 when the ATSC established the Digital Loudness Subgroup. Now, Jim Starzynski, who has worked on that extensively, will go into detail. Let me just say here that the progress of that subgroup has been remarkable. In many respects, it has resolved more issues in the last two years than the government was able to solve in decades. And we are now on the cusp of resolving this issue.
Importantly, when ATSC adopts its recommended practice, it will have the salutary effect of providing guidance for all local televisions for local advertising, local programming, syndicated programming, national spot, but also influence both cable and satellite systems which have similar technologies.
I would ask the committee to consider just one word of caution. This system has been worked on now for nearly two years. Engineers, by and large, are problem solvers. That's what they do. And we are on the cusp of resolving this issue. Our concern with the bill, if enacted, will send to the FCC for one year and require resolution within one year. In effect, it creates, or may create, a jump ball, in which, once the lawyers get involved, you end up starting the process over in the context of a regulatory environment. And this may have the unintended consequence of actually delaying a solution rather than fostering it.
Nonetheless, we think the bill is important. Certainly the bill has focused our attentions and helped accelerate the process. But we are concerned that there may be some unintended consequences here.
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today, and I want to thank Representative Eshoo for sponsoring the bill and I'm prepared to answer any questions you may have.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you very much, Mr. Donovan.
MR. STARZYNSKI: Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Stearns, thank you for inviting me to testify on H.R. 1084 and for the opportunity to discuss how NBC Universal and the TV industry generally are addressing the TV loudness issue.
I'm here today representing NBC Universal, which I serve as principal engineer and audio architect. I've been working in the TV industry for 25 years and have focused on digital TV for the past 12. I also serve as chairman of the Subgroup On Digital Television Loudness within the Advanced Televisions Systems Committee, the technical standards organization for over-the-air digital TV.
Though digital TV greatly enhances audio quality, if not properly managed it also creates the opportunity for excessive variations in loudness. This can be especially apparent when transitioning from programs to commercials. The TV industry understands and shares the concerns about variations in volume levels. We want to give our audience the best possible listening experience and we know that experience is not currently optimal.
Congress has also heightened our awareness of the problem and helped galvanize industry action on this issue. As a result, we've invested significant effort and resources in voluntary action to address the situation.
This hearing is especially timely because we're on the cusp of offering a solution. Our experience at NBC Universal provides an example of a possible solution.
Early on, we recognized that the digital transition would require a culture change in our management of audio of programs and commercials. Whether produced internally or obtained from outside suppliers, TV programs and commercials come from hundreds of different sources. The sheer number and diversity of program sources contribute to uneven volume levels unless properly managed. Thus, our goal of providing a cinema-quality sound experience also created a risk of excessive variation.
Fortunately, the ATSC's current digital standard as adopted by the FCC incorporates the necessary technology to eliminate variation in loudness during program to commercial transitions. And although ATSC standard generally applies only to over-the-air broadcasting, the standards and technologies used by cable, satellite and telco operators are closely related.
Therefore, NBC Universal required our in-house productions, external show suppliers and advertising customers to provide us with soundtracks that are compatible with our in-place ATSC audio practices.
We require all of our content to be produced and delivered at a consistent loudness. And we set our broadcast equipment to properly operate at this loudness level. These practices are generally sufficient to ensure a consistent audio level across NBC programs and networks.
To address content delivered with loudness outside the range of our spec, WNBC-DT in New York is about to test new technology that will automatically normalize the loudness levels. This technology simply adjusts the volume of disparate content before transmission, much like adjusting the sound with a remote control at home.
If successful -- if the test is successful at WNBC, we plan to apply the technology to all NBCU television services.
Now, let me discuss the broader issue and the industry status.
In April of 2007, the ATSC recognized that the emerging digital TV loudness problem deserved more attention across the industry. So it created the ATSC sub-group that I chair, which is DTV loudness experts from all over the major broadcast networks, as well as cable, production and postproduction, manufacturing and education.
Our goal was to identify the impediments to providing good DTV audio with consistent volume levels, then discussing and document solutions to those problems. This process ultimately led to the development of a recommended practice, which addresses five areas of concern. And those areas are: the first, contemporary sound measurement; the second, establishing the correct sound monitoring environment. The third is an explanation on how to properly manage DTV's metadata element. The fourth is management of dynamic range. And the fifth: methods to effectively control program-to-interstitial loudness, or programs to commercials.
This recommended practice is a comprehensive, effective and easy- to-read resource that covers all issues from content creation through distribution and transmission to the consumer experience. This ATSC- recommended practice can become the road map for all TV professionals, no matter their industry or level of technical sophistication.
In terms of timing, the ATSC Recommended Practice is in final review by the Audio Experts Group and scheduled for submission to our parent group in July on the 22nd, with release of a final document anticipated for September.
After release of the finished recommended practice, the industry will be well-positioned to resolve concerns over TV loudness. Because the industry is on the cusp of taking action to address TV loudness concerns, legislation on this matter is, for the moment, inadvisable.
Legislation may slow or stall widespread implementation of the recommended practice while the industry waits for congressional and subsequent agency action.
Further, legislation might result in a sub-optimal technical solution or require adherence to a technical standard that's already become obsolete.
I understand a self-regulatory approach may not provide some with the same level of assurance as a legislative solution. However, I can assure you that the industry is motivated to act.
Once again, thanks for inviting me to address this issue. I'd be happy to take your questions.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you, Mr. Starzynski.
MR. STARZYNSKI: Thank you.
REP. BOUCHER: Mr. Doyle.
MR. DOYLE: Good morning, Chairman Boucher, Ranking Member Stearns and Members of the subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I am Peter Doyle, and I will be presenting testimony on behalf of the Federal Communications Commission. I am chief of the Media Bureau's Audio Division. My staff and I are responsible for all terrestrial radio broadcast station licensing.
The commission authorized the low-power FM radio service in January 2000. In establishing the first new radio service in more than 30 years, the commission sought to respond to a broad and deep interest in creating outlets for highly local radio stations grounded in their communities. Eight hundred and fifty-nine LPFM stations are currently licensed and operating.
The commission initially declined to adopt third-adjacent channel minimum-distance separation requirements. It concluded that such requirements would unnecessarily restrict the number of LPFM stations and would not cause unacceptable levels of interference.
In December 2000, Congress passed the 2001 D.C. Appropriations Act, legislation which directed the commission to impose third- adjacent channel protection requirements. The Media Bureau thereafter dismissed 462 applications, which could not be amended to comply with the act's spacing requirements.
In accordance with the act, the commission selected the Mitre Corporation to conduct interference tests. Mitre delivered its phase one report in June 2003. Mitre substantially agreed with the commission's conclusions, finding that third-adjacent channel LPFM transmissions would have little impact on incumbent full-power stations.
In February of 2004, the commission submitted its report to Congress and recommended that Congress eliminate LPFM third-adjacent channel requirements.
I would like to make two specific comments about the Local Community Radio Act.
First, the commission's FM translator licensing experience since the delivery of the 2004 report further confirms the agency's initial determination that LPFM stations would not cause unacceptable levels of interference. The FM translator service has by far the most flexible rules to engineer in a low-power FM station in a mature radio market. These rules permit an FM translator co-locate with a third- adjacent channel, full-power station on the basis of a commission- approved, "no actual interference" methodology. On the other hand, a translator station must cease operations if a single listener complaint of actual interference remains unresolved.
Since 2004, the Audio Division has granted approximately 4,400 new translator station licenses, with approximately 1,800 of these relying on a no actual interference processing standard with regard to a nearby or co-located second- or third-adjacent channel station -- a perfect, real-world test of the commission's FM interference prediction methodology.
There has been no discernable increase in interference complaints during this licensing process, a substantial vindication of the commission's technical conclusions. Accordingly, we remain confident that the impact from LPFM stations, which generally operate at lower power levels than translator stations, would be extremely modest.
The second point I would like to make is that that the failure to repeal current third-adjacent channel requirements could significantly restrict the future growth of the LPFM service.
In 2007, the commission announced a processing policy to consider second-adjacent channel spacing waivers from LPFM stations at risk of displacement from encroaching full-power stations.
Last Friday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected a National Association of Broadcasters challenge to this processing policy, thereby saving approximately 40 stations at risk of displacement. Enactment of H.R. 1147 would permit the commission to expand this processing policy to permit third-adjacent channel waivers.
The Audio Division currently anticipates enormous applicant interest in the next LPFM window. It is difficult to develop definitive projections regarding the preclusive impact of the 2001 D.C. Appropriations Act with both applicant demand and spectrum supply unknown until an LPFM window opens. Nevertheless, the Audio Division has done some research and has reached a few general conclusions.
Beginning with cities of approximately 500,000 or less, our analysis shows that the current requirements materially limit channels for new LPFM stations, sometimes foreclosing the use of the only channel or channels otherwise available for LPFM use. Channels would be widely available for communities of less than 50,000 if current channel spacing requirements were eliminated.
The commission's extensive experience in FM translator licensing refutes the claim that elimination of third-adjacent channel protection requirements would result in pervasive interference. The commission has twice unanimously requested that Congress lift these restrictions. As chief of the Audio Division and on behalf the division's expert engineers who prudently safeguard the technical integrity of the radio spectrum and who are responsible for ensuring interference-free service by over 16,000 FM stations daily, I wholeheartedly support that request.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you, Mr. Doyle.
MS. BEASLEY: Good morning, Chairman Boucher --
REP. BOUCHER: I think you need to turn that on or move it closer or both.
MS. BEASLEY: It's on. Hello?
REP. BOUCHER: Okay, good.
MS. BEASLEY: Good morning Chairman Boucher, Ranking Member Stearns and subcommittee members.
Is that -- my name is Caroline Beasley.
I am the executive vice president and chief financial officer of the Beasley Broadcast Group, a family-owned company which owns and operates 44 radio stations in 11 markets. I am testifying today on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters where I serve as vice chair of the NAB Radio Board.
My main message today is that full-power FM stations and low- power FM stations can coexist. There is a role for each to play within their communities. And there is a process in place to continue licensing LPFM at the FCC.
That being said, it is important to maintain interference guidelines that protect listeners to both services.
The hallmark of full-power radio broadcasting is service to our communities. Broadcasters provide unequalled community service and contribute billions of dollars locally through direct fundraising, charitable giving and donated air time. We air a wide range of music and entertainment, provide local news, act as a lifeline in times of crisis, heighten awareness of important issues and inform voters.
In times of emergency, local radio broadcasters rise to the occasion. Local broadcasters will break from regular programming and stay on the air to reach the public and share essential information.
In 2008, as wildfires ravaged southwest Florida, Beasley responded as five of our stations helped raise funds for families that lost homes. When an explosion occurred at a sugar refinery in Georgia, a neighboring Beasley station acted as a communications center between the public and officials dealing with the disaster.
The station was flooded with offers of help and assistance for victims of the explosion. Listeners have come to expect this involvement from their local broadcasters, and we will always be there for them.
In serving our local communities, broadcasters are concerned about interference. Simply, a listener that experiences interference is a lost listener, one who will change the channel and stop tuning in. This is a person we may not reach at a critical time during an emergency.
The engineering study commissioned by the FCC and the subsequent recommendations to Congress address the subject of interference. A common perception of the report is that interference is simply not a problem and the policy should be changed.
This study, however, showed that interference did in fact result from an LPFM station operating on a third-adjacent channel. At various test sites significant degradation was found during listening. Some full-power FM programs had static. Some were not heard at all. And at other times a different program could be heard in the background. These factors were not present when the LPFM test station was turned off but subsequently occurred when the LPFM station was turned on.
In view of these findings, the study recommended consideration of a formula or a way in which to mitigate the interference. The NAB's analysis was that harmful interference would be far more prevalent than the government's report. And our objections to that report were documented at length. Moreover, it is significant to note that even the government's commissioned report did not recommend a wholesale elimination of third-adjacent channel protection.
There is a process in place at the FCC for approving low-power FMs. And to date, 865 stations have been licensed. Under existing rules there is also a great deal of capacity remaining for the licensing of additional low-power FM stations.
Nationwide, there is room for tens of thousands of additional LPFMs. This is possible under the existing third-adjacent channel protection policy.
Interference is a real concern for local broadcasters, and buffer protections are necessary and make sense. Any policy discussion to remove third-adjacent channel protection should carefully balance interference risk to both full-power and low-power FM services.
Even with third-adjacent protections in place, there are examples of harmful interference caused by LPFM stations that are not adhering to existing technical regulations.
Enforcement remains an issue. And increasing the chance of interference through a policy change affects all listeners and may increase the likelihood of a lost listener at a time of need or emergency.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to testify.
And thank you, Mr. Doyle, for the chance to discuss your legislation.
I appreciate you interest in providing greater opportunity and diversity in radio. And I hope we can work together to further that goal.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you very much, Ms. Beasley.
MS. LEANZA: Thank you. Good morning. Good morning everyone.
Thank you for keeping your attention on this long, long panel. I really appreciate your time. I know it's a lot of information, and I'm trying to -- going to try to be brief and hopefully interesting for you.
I want to thank Chairman Boucher and Ranking Member Stearns, the members of the subcommittee.
And I'm here today to support the Local Community Radio Act of 2009, H.R. 1147.
First, I want to extend my sincere gratitude to Congressman Doyle and Congressman Terry for their leadership on this issue, as well as the bipartisan group of legislators on this subcommittee for bringing this issue forward.
In particular I also, as a quick side note, want to articulate UCC support for the other bills that are being considered this morning. And I have a letter with me today form 20 media justice organizations in support of Congressman Rush's bill.
But I'm here to talk about low-power radio. I'm going to describe the service. I'm going to describe the problem. I'm going to give you a couple of examples. I'm going to hit the technology for a little bit. And hopefully we'll get out of here with time to spare -- at least in my five minutes, right?
So what is low-power radio? They're small FM stations. They're 100 watts. They reach five to seven miles in diameter. They're really small. They fit in between the cracks. And they use spectrum that's not use right now.
We do have 800 stations on the dial. We know something about them. And there are an incredible diversity of stations. I couldn't begin to describe them all to you today, but encourage you to look at my written testimony and go back into your home districts and find out about what's going in there, because it's really incredible.
But as we -- as I said, we're not here today about the stations that are on the air. We're about the people who are left behind. Because although we have 800 stations on the air, there is one station in the top 50 markets in this country. That's 140 million people that have virtually no opportunity to hear about low-power radio.
Hundreds and thousands of organizations are waiting, waiting for Congress to act, waiting for this bill to pass -- organizations like Southwest Virginia Community College that submitted an application to the FCC. Everything was a hundred percent right. The previous legislation passed, and their hopes were snatched away.
In contrast, if we pass this legislation every -- just about every community in this country would get three or four LPFM stations. They are all waiting for Congress to act, to pass this bill.
So there are a lot of stories I could tell you about low-power radio. But since it's June and it's the beginning of hurricane season, I am going to talk a little but about some good examples.
I want to assure you that, although I don't know who is going to win the hockey finals this season, that LPFM is going to win the Stanley Cup overall.
Let me give you some examples.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is in Central Florida. During Hurricane Wilma they saved almost 300 people through their broadcasts. What's different about this radio station? They don't just broadcast in Spanish, they broadcast in indigenous languages like Mixe (ph) and Zapotek (ph). This is not stuff that you hear on the radio now. When you get information in your native language it is much easier to respond in an emergency.
Similarly, in Hancock County in Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina, KQRZ was able to stay on the air. Why? They were small enough they could pick up the transmitter, move it to higher ground and operate the entire time using a car battery. That doesn't happen with regular full-power radio.
Finally, I want to tell you a place -- about somewhere that they wish they had low-power radio: Citrus County, Florida.
During Hurricane Frances they were desperate for information, local information. Well, certainly there was a lot of information on the radio about Hurricane Frances in that region. It was all emanating out of Tampa and directed towards Tampa. The Citrus County Officials were so desperate for attention that they actually announced in 2004 they were going to try to get a low-power radio stations, but they're still waiting. Congress needs to act.
So I need to spend about 60 seconds and make three points about the technical issues about low-power radio, because you keep hearing "this is a great service, it's a great idea, but there's technical problems." I understand that. I understand the desire to study. But let me make a few points to you.
First, we know low-power radio is safe because there are thousands of translator stations on the air now run by full-power broadcasters that are the same size, the same distance apart, exactly the same -- in fact, some of them are closer than low-power radio stations, and they're working fine.
Mr. Doyle said it in technical terms. I'm telling you in layman's terms. These are the same. They're on the air. They don't cause interference.
The only difference between those stations and LPFM -- who owns them? Are they a member of the NAB? Or are they not?
My second point: We have a ($)2.2 million congressionally ordered, independent study, not a government study, not a private sector study, an independent study. It confirms all of the analysis the many other studies that have come before this.
I need to say to you today, one of the organizations that I am representing is the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. These are 200 full-power, noncommercial broadcasters on the air. The organization is 25 years old. They support this service. They support the legislation. They care incredibly about signal integrity. They would not be here today supporting this legislation if there was a danger to the service.
Finally, I need to point to you -- out to you that incumbents do not have a sterling track record when it comes to technical questions about new entrants. Whether it was the AM radio broadcasters trying to keep out that newfangled FM service in the 1930s, or it was Ma Bell telling you that it was absolutely impossible for you to buy a telephone in a store and hook it up to the network without causing the entire network to fall down, incumbents protect their territory, and this situation is no different.
We could certainly study the issue to death. We could study it more. And we could create an entire stimulus package for just studying this issue, but thousands of stations -- thousands of applicants around the country have been waiting and waiting. And we've put a lot of resources into it. And we know the answer. The record is clear.
So in closing, I want to share a quick experience with you, one of my favorite parts of working on low-power radio.
I often get the chance to ask people, what would you do if you had a radio station? What would it sound like if your community were in control? And all of sudden their eyes light up, because the wheels in their head are turning. Oh my gosh, we would broadcast the local high school football game. We would find out what exactly is going on at city council or the school board. And what about that river on the other side of the county, is that safe? Can my kids walk in it and wade in it?
And the music -- the band down the corner that they just heard for the first time, that they're sure is going to make it, the cherished songs from the homeland that they have -- want -- like to share with their children or their grandchildren -- there is nothing like this on radio today.
So I'm bringing with you a potent example of why this service is so popular. These are 20,000 signatures. Public Interest Community has collected 20,000 signatures only since the end of February, since this legislation was introduced this year. This is just the tip of the iceberg. These 20,000 people are asking you all to move this legislation ahead. And I hope you will listen to them.
Thank you for your time. And I look forward to answering your questions.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you, Ms. Leanza.
Thanks to each of the witnesses for your testimony here today.
I have two letters that are addressed to me, which I'm going to ask unanimous consent they be placed in the record. They are commentary on various items of legislation pending before us this morning.
Without objection, those will be placed in the record.
Mr. Doyle, let me begin my questions with you with respect to low-power FM.
One of the letters that I just placed in the record is from the public radio station that serves the western part of the state of Virginia. It serves my congressional district, as well as two neighboring congressional districts. And I think Mr. Walden had raised similar kinds of concerns to those raised in this letter during the course of his opening statement.
This is a public radio station that has a main signal. And that main signal then is picked up by a whole group of translators that are located in our very mountainous region. And we have two mountain ranges in my congressional district alone. And for communities that are down in the valleys, that are well away from the main signal, these translators are the way that public radio service gets propagated out across a very large area. And this is the principal public radio station for the entire western half of the state of Virginia. It probably covers something close to 30 counties.
That coverage is largely through the translator facilities. The concern that has been expressed to me comes from that public radio station. So in this instance, it's a public station that is a bit concerned about opening the panorama of potential for more public radio broadcasting -- in this case, truly local broadcasting -- not because they oppose it, but because they're worried about interference.
You made brief reference in your statement -- to which I listened very carefully -- about the studies that you have done relative to translator facilities. And I want to ask you to amplify on that a bit.
The concern expressed to me is that the translator facility receiving a signal from the main broadcast tower is getting what in effect is a fairly weak signal, because it's a long way away. And around that translator facility -- having to pick up a very weak signal -- if there is any local interference, that interference can materially degrade that main signal coming into the translator and effectively impair the receipt of this public radio programming through most of the service territory.
And that strikes me as a legitimate question, if not a legitimate concern.
So what I'm asking you is how legitimate is the concern? And what have your studies shown about the ability of these translators to pick up very weak signals if there's any kind of interference in the area?
MR. DOYLE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Yes, that is a legitimate concern. We do have a rule that protects what we call the input signal of a FM translator station. And it's protected in the same way that stations' signals are protected. The --
REP. BOUCHER: So this is a protection that would be specific to the translator itself and the area --
MR. DOYLE: Correct.
REP. BOUCHER: -- around the translator?
MR. DOYLE: Correct. I --
REP. BOUCHER: No, I understand.
MR. DOYLE: Yeah, I could look up the rule -- section number for you, but we do have that in place, and that --
REP. BOUCHER: What do you conclude about the potential for third-adjacency low-power FM within the immediate area of that translator?
MR. DOYLE: Well, that's exactly the qualification. Within the immediate area of the translator there would be the potential for interference.
REP. BOUCHER: Right. And so how do we guard against that?
MR. DOYLE: Well, we -- the commission has developed a rule to protect stations in that situation.
REP. BOUCHER: If Mr. Doyle's bill passes can your rule still stand?
MR. DOYLE: It's complementary, yes. It would still stand.
REP. BOUCHER: It is complementary?
MR. DOYLE: Yes.
REP. BOUCHER: I would like for you to submit for our record, if you would, a more detailed explanation of how that rule works and answer directly the question of how that rule can coexist with Mr. Doyle's bill in the event that it's enacted.
MR. DOYLE: We'd be happy to do that.
REP. BOUCHER: Okay. Thank you.
Mr. Donovan and Mr. Starzynski, you refer in your testimony, with respect to volume controls on commercials on television programs, to a forthcoming recommended practice -- I believe you said that will be forthcoming in September -- and that your practice will address squarely the need to make sure that the volume on commercials is not excessive as compared to the regular broadcast programming.
MR. DONOVAN: That's right, Mr. Chairman. Yep.
REP. BOUCHER: To what extent do you anticipate that this practice will be adopted by television broadcasters once it is published? And I would ask you to make that projection based on whatever past experience you have with similar kinds of standards that have been recommended to the broadcast industry.
MR. STARZYNSKI: Well, okay.
REP. BOUCHER: Or Mr. Donovan, whoever.
MR. STARZYNSKI: (Laughs.)
MR. DONOVAN: I think as a general matter, when you have a recommended practice that has gone through the industry standard setting body, which is what ATSC is -- and in fact, in many instances it's -- there's more technical detail in that standard than in others that were referred to, such as England and other countries.
REP. BOUCHER: I understand it will be technically detailed.
MR. DONOVAN: Right.
REP. BOUCHER: But the question is, to what extent will it be put into practice and adopted by the local broadcasters?
MR. DONOVAN: I think it will be. I think it clearly becomes the norm for the industry. And the industry --
REP. BOUCHER: Is that based on past experience?
MR. DONOVAN: It's based on past experiences working through the ATSC and industry standard setting bodies.
REP. BOUCHER: Is there any enforcement to make sure that that happens?
MR. DONOVAN: The enforcement becomes self-enforcing. In other words you have --
REP. BOUCHER: Is there any monitoring that takes place to make sure that it's being complied with by those who at least in principle adopt it?
MR. STARZYNSKI: Oh, sir, absolutely. There's monitoring that happens when the program --
REP. BOUCHER: Who does the monitoring?
MR. STARZYNSKI: We do it internally. I can speak for NBC. And it happens at the point at which the content comes into the building. So it gets monitored extensively.
And the thing that it also does is it applies a contemporary monitoring device. One -- you may remember the FCC said we can't go farther with this a whole bunch of years ago, because we don't have the technology to do it? We have it now. So that technology is an international standard. It works very well. And it can't be gamed.
So there's no issue where you may have someone trying to game the system. It really reads it. And it works the way our ears work this time. It's not dealing with just the electronics. It's dealing perceptual levels.
REP. BOUCHER: Okay.
MR. STARZYNSKI: And we have every reason to apply this and to move forward with it, because we agree with you. The problem is out there. We need to fix it.
REP. BOUCHER: All right. Well, you have confidence that your standard will be followed, that it will be monitored, that it can be effective?
MR. STARZYNSKI: Yes, I do.
MR. DONOVAN: We do. Yes, sir.
REP. BOUCHER: Thank you for those answers.
Let me take just a moment to address the question of payphone rates that are imposed in correctional institutions.
I'm exceeding my time. The chair will be very generous with other members, in terms of their time to ask questions also.
Mr. Hopfinger, let me pose a question to you.
You've heard Mr. Krogh testify that sometimes the successful bidder in contracts to provide these telecommunications services to inmates will be the bidder who offers the highest commission to the correctional authority, not the bidder who offers the lowest-priced service. Is that correct, and if it is correct, how is that justified?
MR. HOPFINGER: Well, Chairman Boucher, I would say that today that is not necessarily the case, as the sheriffs' associations and the other associations have put forth mandates or recommendations that rates for inmates be just and reasonable and -- for the inmates and their people that are paying for these calls. I will tell you, in the bidding systems today, the majority of our bids -- one of the criteria is for low rates, but low rates in anticipation with all the other safety and security requirements that the system -- is needed. And Mr. Krogh mentioned a few states where the rates are lower. I will say that, in addition to the states that Mr. Krogh mentioned, there are additional states where rates are in fact coming down, and that is as a result of the way the system is working today.
REP. BOUCHER: All right.
Mr. Krogh, let me ask you to respond, if you like, to the answer Mr. Hopfinger just provided, and additionally, if you would, Sheriff Goad in his testimony talked about the fact that the commissions that are received by the correctional authorities are often applied towards services for inmates, such as rehabilitative services. What is your view about whether those services should be financed by the commissions on telephone calls as compared, perhaps, to government simply providing through direct appropriations the money necessary for those essential services?
MR. KROGH: Yes, Mr. Chairman. It's true, just turning to Mr. Hopfinger's comments first, it is true that in some states the rates have come down as a result of decisions made by either the state legislature or correctional authorities. But the point is that the majority of states, you still have -- and other jails and prison systems, you still have exorbitant rates where the bidding system has not been reformed. And so there -- you have violations of, in all these other states, violations of the Communications Act because they're charging unreasonable rates.
REP. BOUCHER: Okay. Comment to the second part, if you would.
MR. KROGH: And in terms of the prison welfare programs, I really do think that there's no justification for imposing a regressive tax on the users of those programs, which is what the commission rates are. If there's a necessary program, it really ought to be funded out of the budget and --
REP. BOUCHER: Out of the government's budget under which the facility is operated?
MR. KROGH: Yes. And I think things that are more voluntary, that are more discretionary -- really, the problem, as I said, is that you're taking the choice away from the prisoners and their families as to whether they would rather have reasonable rates --
REP. BOUCHER: That's fine. Thank you very much, Mr. Krogh.
MR. KROGH: Yes.
REP. BOUCHER: My time has expired.
The gentleman from Florida, Mr. Stearns.
REP. STEARNS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Kelsey, in your opening statement you had mentioned that Australia, Brazil, France, Israel, Russia and the United Kingdom have already adopted legislation to control this burst of sound that comes from advertisements. How has it worked? Do you know? And first of all, how long ago did they adopt this legislation? How long ago did they adopt it?
MR. KELSEY: I believe most of the countries in the last few years. And I highlight in particular in Australia the trade group that represents the broadcasters there went a step further and offered technical assistance to broadcasters. And many -- and Australia and the U.K.'s law in particular are Representative Eshoo has put forth.
REP. STEARNS: Okay. And have they been successful?
MR. KELSEY: I don't know that. I could get back to you, yeah.
REP. STEARNS: Okay.
Mr. Starzynski, so the argument is, okay, we've adopted legislation. We don't know if it'll solve the problem. It's similar to what the gentlelady from California's offered. So the question to you is, when would you think that you would have the solution here? You said September?
MR. STARZYNSKI: Well, we have the recommended practice that will be voted on by the membership this summer and released in September. We think that will go well. And that's through the ATSC. And we've got a lot of technology happening as we speak. I cited some new technology we're putting on the air at WNBC hopefully, fingers crossed, within the next couple of days. That will apply a technical solution to the problem without having the creative folks, who are very concerned about the quality of their sound, get back to us in kind of a -- with backlash on us altering their sounds. So technology's gotten us to a point where we can apply good loudness practices but not alter the creativity of our suppliers.
REP. STEARNS: Well, perhaps the gentlelady's legislation has urged you on here and given a little bit more incentive to do it.
MR. STARZYNSKI: Well, there's no question that it has. The awareness level in the industry right now is tremendous and --
REP. STEARNS: So with that in mind, perhaps the way to solve this problem is -- because Mr. Kelsey's saying these countries adopt it, but they couldn't do anything without the technical advice of people like yourself, so the legislation might pass but nothing's going to happen without you folks. So you folks are on the issue right now, so it looks like you're ready with the solution. And then that would be some time this year you would have a solution, and then we could assume that would be promulgated throughout the broadcast industry?
MR. STARZYNSKI: Right. That's right. As I had said before, I don't think that --
REP. STEARNS: Well, what assurance would we have that after you have the solution that everybody would adopt it?
MR. STARZYNSKI: With the level of awareness that we have right now, and we're all -- we're not disputing the fact that there's a problem out there. We all know it. We want to fix it.
REP. STEARNS: No, no, I understand. But the question is, after you have a solution, how soon would everybody adopt your solution, and what assurance would we have that they would, without legislation?
MR. STARZYNSKI: The assurance is they definitely want to solve the problem. And to answer your time frame on this, it's going to vary based on the sophistication of the broadcast group or the operator that you're speaking about. In terms of NBC Universal, with all of our resources, we've been able to attack this with the past couple of years directly, but it is taking us a little while to get there because we require technology to let us do it. And you also need to understand the proper ways to apply the standard. I think that the rollout will be a little bit different across the board as it pertains to different levels of sophistication in the industry, only because of budgets and that kind of thing.
REP. STEARNS: I understand.
MR. STARZYNSKI: But the key to all of it now is, we have a road map that will be in place to help everyone out with this. There's no more ambiguity.
REP. STEARNS: Okay. So if you were writing this legislation, you said, "Okay, give us a little hiatus here," how would you -- how long before we could say, okay, you haven't done anything, we're going to pass this legislation?
MR. STARZYNSKI: I hope that it never comes to that. I hope that what happens, you find that we self-regulate this. And, you know, somebody said this before and I think it's really true: Engineers want to solve problems. And I think the experts are on it and they want to solve this issue for you guys, for all of America.
REP. STEARNS: Sure. Okay.
Mr. Doyle and Ms. Beasley, the question is that the FCC went out and hired an independent contractor, the Mitre Corporation, to determine if there was harmful interference. If low-power FM stations don't cause harmful interference, is what basically this independent report said, then the question is, why do we need Section 5 of the bill which requires the FCC to retain third adjacent channel protection for full-power and noncommercial FM stations that broadcast services via a subcarrier frequency? So, I mean, if you have an independent report that says it's no big problem, why would we need Section 5? I mean, you dispute the independent, Mitre -- you dispute it?
MS. BEASLEY: We believe that there are flaws within the Mitre --
REP. STEARNS: You have an independent report of your own that disputes it?
MS. BEASLEY: The NAB has provided a report that outlines --
REP. BOUCHER: Ms. Beasley, please turn your microphone on.
MS. BEASLEY: It is on.
REP. BOUCHER: Okay. Pull it a little closer.
MS. BEASLEY: I guess I'm not talking close enough. (Laughs.)
The NAB has provided a report that outlines the flaws in the Mitre report.
REP. STEARNS: Okay.
MS. BEASLEY: That being said, if I may go on --
REP. STEARNS: Sure.
MS. BEASLEY: The Mitre report -- I'm not an engineer, but based on my understanding, the Mitre report reviewed seven sites. And we can just take away two of the sites, if you will, because one site was related to a reading service and one task related to translators. So there were five other sites, and there was significant interference found at these five sites relative to Walkmans and boom boxes. Now, Ms. Leanza referred to South Florida stations, people going through, riding through hurricanes, if you will. I am from South Florida. I was there --
REP. STEARNS: No, you made a good -- no, I understand.
MS. BEASLEY: I was there when Hurricane Wilma was and, as well, Hurricane Charlie. And it's important to note that people do not go out and they don't listen to their car radios --
REP. STEARNS: No, I understand the case. I understand it. We're just trying to understand if the FCC has an independent contractor who says no big problem, why suddenly you're disputing it, and --
MS. BEASLEY: Well, we do, and it's on record that we have, and there is a report.
REP. STEARNS: Okay. Let me just go then --
MR. DOYLE: Excuse me, could I provide some FCC input into that?
REP. STEARNS: Sure.
MR. DOYLE: Radio reading services are delivered on subcarrier frequencies. These tend to be more fragile than the main transmission, and, in fact, the Mitre report did find a limited amount of interference to the subcarriers that a radio reading service would be carried on. And the commission, on its own, in developing these rules imposed this requirement on low-power stations to ensure that this vital service would not be degraded by low-power stations.
REP. STEARNS: Thank you.
Mr. Krogh, I guess a standard question in this issue is, is it a constitutional right for an inmate to have access to a phone? Is that yes or no? I don't know. Does an inmate have to have access to a phone? Just yes or no. Do you know?
MR. KROGH: That really hasn't played a role in the FCC proceedings, and so I really don't have --
REP. STEARNS: Okay. And is it the right that they have to have rates that are low? I mean, I think that we'd all like to have them have rates, but is, you know, generally, when I go out to buy something, it's what the market will bear. And so what we're doing as a government is dictating that the rates have to be low to give inmates this right to have access to the phone. The families don't have to accept these collect calls. They can come in and see them or, perhaps if they're geographically a long ways away, perhaps, they could restrict their calls because if you make it a lot cheaper they're going to call more, and perhaps it might even be the same in rate. So this $400, $395 a month you talk about -- if the rate's a lot cheaper, perhaps they're going to make more calls and it'll still rack up to ($)395. So at some point, somebody's going to have to make a consumer decision -- we don't want to pay this.
Mr. Goad -- Sheriff Goad, your argument is, basically, that you use these excess funds for rehabilitation and services to help the inmates. In your opinion -- I think the chairman touched on it -- do you believe that the government should provide these? Or do you think that it should be done the way you're doing it?
SHERIFF GOAD: Well, I think it should be done the way we're doing it. I think in these hard economic times, we're constantly being cut on budgets. We find that these funds allow us to provide many of these indigent inmates with the services they need, along with the undergarments, socks, Bibles --
REP. STEARNS: Your biggest argument, I thought, was the security.
SHERIFF GOAD: Yes.
REP. STEARNS: When you talked about that, you're saying if these -- somehow the government stepped in and prevented you from having the rates that you feel are appropriate, then you would not be able to provide the survey, the recording of the watch on terrorist list and things like that that --
SHERIFF GOAD: Right -- criminal investigations.
REP. STEARNS: Criminal investigation, which is part of our national security.
SHERIFF GOAD: Absolutely.
REP. STEARNS: And depending upon the inmate, whether he's there for -- the severity of the crime would impact how much attention you have to do for that inmate and his telephone call.
SHERIFF GOAD: Yes, sir. They even circumvent some of our phone systems, where they'll actually do three-way calling. They'll call someone outside the facility, get several people (on line ?) as a party call and proceed to conduct business as usual.
REP. STEARNS: Yeah, a lot of these calls are not, shall we say, felicitous calls. These are calls with intent to perhaps commit more crime or to do witness tampering or things like that, is what you're saying.
SHERIFF GOAD: Correct. We've had intimidation of witnesses; we've also had the perpetuating of other crimes.
REP. STEARNS: So we've got to have -- you've got to have the funds to do that security survey, in effect, or we're really putting our citizens at danger.
SHERIFF GOAD: Yes, sir. That is correct.
REP. STEARNS: Okay. All right.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ANTHONY D. WEINER (D-NY): Just to yield myself a brief moment or two just to clarify a couple of things, on the record.
This notion of a free market -- I don't know who can answer this. A free market, will that dictate that if someone has a calling charge, collect call charge, 630 percent higher than the market -- tell me a little bit about what the family can do to shop around for a lower rate when someone is making a collect call to them from a prison? Perhaps, Mr. Krogh, maybe you can explain how the free market works in this instance.
MR. KROGH: Well, there is no free market in prison calling. There is the exclusive service provider who provides all the calls, all the calling, and you have no choice. And so because of that, if we're going to continue with exclusive service contracts, the rates have to be regulated. The FCC has broad authority to regulate interstate telecommunications, including -- and there are no exceptions for prisoners. Section 201b of the act requires that rates be just and reasonable, with no exceptions. And the families who are paying for these collect calls should have the benefit of that federal law as much as anyone else.
REP. WEINER: Right. I think that most members of this committee, and apparently the gentleman from Florida, would agree that we should have the free market. Let's let market forces be brought to bear. Let's let one -- more than one operation. Let's let 800 numbers function. And I think that's the point.
Mr. Doyle, you're recognized for five minutes.
REP. TERRY: Parliamentary inquiry -- don't we go back and forth?
REP. WEINER: Certainly, we do.
REP. TERRY: But you just spoke.
REP. WEINER: Was that a line of questioning? I thought it was just a point of clarification.
REP. TERRY: He asked his question.
REP. WEINER: If the gentleman insists, the gentleman from Nebraska is recognized for five minutes.
REP. TERRY: I just thought it was very odd that you were asking the question -- (off mike).
Thank you. Let me start with the three on this side and just work down the table. Let me just give an editorial comment more than a question. And certainly I think the least sympathetic characters are the ones that are in prison, but there is something distasteful about taking advantage of them, too, which I think is the underlying premise for this act.
Mr. Hopfinger, you made a good point that -- and the sheriff -- that there are security concerns and technologies that have to be woven in here that add to the expense. I think that's extremely fair and a good point. I guess the issue is, then, how much of a gap is there when you add in the cost of this additional technology, where it's just becoming the, in essence, I guess, the slush fund for the jails or the prisons.
Mr. Krogh, I'll give you about 15 seconds because I've got a couple of other things.
MR. KROGH: Yes. I think Mr. Hopfinger has been unduly modest. I'd like to put in a plug for Securus. Securus, for example, in Florida, is able to provide interstate collect calling for four cents a minute, plus a connection charge of $1.20, which is equivalent to 14 cents a minute for a 12-minute call. And they do that elsewhere. So they can do it; they can cover all of these expensive security functions and all the other monitoring and everything else that they've been talking about, at those very reasonable rates. Plus, in Florida they're paying, out of that low rate, a 35 percent commission. So in Florida, you can have it all.
REP. TERRY: Well, I'm going to take my time back. And I'll just say, I think this does raise a concern. And my message back to Sheriff Goad is perhaps to communicate that even on the conservative, pro-justice side, there's concerns about the telephone rates. I have -- (off mike).
Next, the next group, on audio sound: It is a real concern. You guys know that.
MR. STARZYNSKI: Starzynski.
REP. TERRY: Close enough -- (laughs) -- I'll follow up on Cliff's notes. The public demands this. They want action from us. So the message back, Mr. Donovan, is -- and to you and NAB and everyone else that's involved in here: the sooner the better. If this doesn't get cleared up, if -- you guys will vote and address this issue in September. If we come back here this same time next year and most of the TV stations haven't resolved this, this is going to pass. That's my message to you. In our household, it's so dang annoying that the habit that we have is when the commercials come on, we just hit mute. Not because we don't want to hear the "comusion" (sic), but the decibel level goes up significantly --
MR. DONOVAN: Yep. And that's not a good place for us to be.
REP. TERRY: That's not a good place. It's self-defeating.
MR. DONOVAN: Right.
REP. TERRY: Last, let's go to my major issue, with Mr. Doyle.
And Mr. Doyle, who's no relation to the author of this bill, just thought I'd lay --
MR. DOYLE: That is correct. My side is not really good at breeding that much, so we (laughter) --
REP. TERRY: (Laughs.) Too much information. (Laughs.)
But there was a suggestion that in the Mitre study not only was it the reading but five of seven of the other sites had interference? That's not my understanding. Is that accurate?
MR. DOYLE: The Mitre study showed that if we throw out one outlier case, that there was no interference at -- for LP100 stations, your basic low-power station, at distances greater than 333 meters, that interference became common under 250 meters and severe within 100 meters of the LPFM transmitter site. It's never been the commission's position that there would be no interference, but as I tried to explain in my testimony, we have ample experience with translators to figure out how to make this work.
REP. TERRY: All right.
MS. LEANZA: Mr. Terry, would you mind I just --
REP. TERRY: You have 21 seconds.
MS. LEANZA: The area of interference -- we're talking on the grounds of a low-power radio station, we're talking .0013 of the geographic area of a full-power radio station. So tiny area -- if you're next door to a low-power radio station, in the same building as a low-power radio station, you might not be able to hear one other radio station. Other than that, there's not an issue.
REP. WEINER: (Off mike) -- recognize Mr. Doyle for five minutes.
REP. DOYLE: Thank you.
Mr. Doyle -- and we're not related, for the record. (Laughter.) So 10 years ago the committee heard the fears from broadcasters that if the FCC licensed these low-power FM stations on third-adjacent that the dial was going to be drenched in oceans of interference. So when we passed the Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act on an appropriations rider, Mr. Doyle, I take it to mean all low-power FM broadcasting has stopped on those third-adjacent frequencies?
MR. DOYLE: Well, yes and no. We certainly have carefully followed the directions from Congress and not licensed so-called low- power FM stations. On the other hand, what I've tried to explain is that FM translators are technically indistinguishable from low-power FM stations and that, for example, in the chairman's own district, the station he was concerned about -- eight translator stations operate without effective third-adjacent connections --
REP. DOYLE: Right. And I'm looking at Page 5 of your testimony, where the FCC says there's 1,800 of these translators already broadcasting right now on the same frequencies that these noncommercial groups want to broadcast on. Is that correct?
MR. DOYLE: Well, most of these translators are actually in the non-reserved band, the 92 to 108, as opposed to the 88 to 92 part where noncommercial stations typically broadcast. Most low-power licensing has occurred in the part of the band where there are not noncommercial stations. There are some, but by and large it has not been --
REP. DOYLE: But we have translators on third-adjacent?
MR. DOYLE: Absolutely.
REP. DOYLE: Okay. So, Ms. Beasley, does your organization or you personally -- are you advocating for the elimination of these translators?
MS. BEASLEY: We do not have or use translators within our company. So it's the NAB's position that -- it's my understanding that full-power FM stations use translators for fill-in, to cover the mass --
REP. DOYLE: But NAB's not advocating that we eliminate translators? Do you think these translators cause "oceans of interference"?
MS. BEASLEY: I can't speak to that because I personally do not -- we do not have translators.
REP. DOYLE: I don't think that's the NAB's position. I guess -- Ms. Leanza, who owns and operates the translators?
MS. LEANZA: By and large, all -- most full-power broadcasters have some sort of translators. It depends on what type of service they're providing.
MS. BEASLEY: We do not.
MS. LEANZA: Right. No, certainly you don't, but many do. It's a widespread use. It's not an atypical, unusual --
REP. DOYLE: So if they don't cause interference and they're technically identical, and these translators don't have some special magical power to work, then surely these translators must be less powerful than an LPM broadcast.
Mr. Doyle, full-power FM stations sometimes run up to 100,000 watts, while a noncommercial FM station can run up to 100 watts. So I'm assuming these translators must be less powerful than that. How powerful are these translators that don't cause interference when they're at third-adjacent from another station?
MR. DOYLE: Our rules permit translators up to 250 watts.
REP. DOYLE: Two hundred fifty watts. So two and a half times more powerful than any LPFM station. So what you're telling me is, and I hope my colleagues will listen to this, is that what we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but when it comes to FCC and the big broadcasters, this name is critical. Translators that serve the interest of big broadcasters work just fine on these third- adjacent channels, and there's no complaints and no issues about interference. But when a low-power station run by community groups, schools, churches, local governments cause interference, somehow -- in the same adjacent channel, these somehow cause interference. I just hope once and for all we can sort of eliminate this double-talk that's been taking place for years.
I want to talk about interference, too. Now, Ms. Beasley, in your statement you referenced the Mitre report, and you said that there was interference caused by low-power FM stations. I've read that study, and in the most extreme circumstance it was found that the interference was .13 percent of the population inside the protected zone of a full-power station. Just for my notes, now, you find that to be an unacceptable level of interference?
MS. BEASLEY: What I read last night was there was significant degradation at these five sites, when you are testing with boom boxes and Walkmans, and --
REP. DOYLE: Point-one-three percent. But you found that -- you think that's unacceptable?
MS. BEASLEY: It's significant such that, well, if you can't get a signal, if you can't hear the programming, if there's static, and if you're operating when there's a hurricane going through your area, and we're providing information to the masses, and we -- yes --
REP. DOYLE: So I take that as a yes.
Okay. I'm curious. I see the NAB has pushed for allowing broadcasters to put HD radio stations next to and along with their analog broadcast. But the engineers found that an average of .6 percent of the population inside the protective zone could have their listening affected. Now, that's not a worst case scenario, like low- power's .13 percent -- that's an average finding, .6 percent. So that's a lot more interference than the low-power stations would cause, even in a worst-case scenario.
So, Mr. Doyle, let me understand this correctly. The NAB has endorsed this .6 level of interference as acceptable for HD radio?
MR. DOYLE: I'm not -- I don't really understand --
REP. DOYLE: Has the NAB filed a request to multiply the power of these digital signals by 1,000 percent?
MR. DOYLE: No. They've asked to increase it by tenfold, from 1 percent to 10 percent of the analog power level. The issue there, Mr. Doyle, I think is different. That's a question of digital into analog, and I'm not sure that it correlates to the analog-into-analog technical dispute that is -- your bill is focused on.
REP. DOYLE: So let me ask you one final question, Mr. Doyle. You're the expert at the FCC. You've studied this issue backwards and forwards. Twice, the FCC in bipartisan votes have recommended that Congress lift this prohibition on third-adjacent channels. Do you think that passing this bill will in any way hurt public radio stations, like my friend Mr. Walden is concerned about, or this will cause any interference of a major portion outside that 100 foot zone that you're -- I mean, what basically happens so that finally communities like mine, who can't get LPFM, can't get an LPFM station in the city of Pittsburgh. There's a lot of places in this country, 140 million people don't have access to this valuable service because of this rule, which, apparently, doesn't seem to cause -- do you see any harmful effects by allowing us to use third-adjacent for LPFM?
MR. DOYLE: The commission's judgment was not that there would be no interference. It was that the interference would be tightly limited to the immediate environment of the LPFM transmitter site and, looking at the significant benefits of an expanded LPFM service, decided that the benefits far outweighed the very, very limited interference that would occur typically within 100 or 200 meters of the LPFM transmitters.
REP. WEINER: Thank you, Mr. Doyle.
REP. DOYLE: Thank you very much.
REP. WEINER: The gentleman from Oregon is recognized, for five minutes.
REP. WALDEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Doyle, I have a question for you on -- do LPFM applicants have priority on frequency over existing translators?
MR. DOYLE: LPFM has priority over no one right now. (Laughs.) The priority relationship between translators and LPFM stations is a first-come, first-served rule. So they're coequal, so that today --
REP. WALDEN: So one can't bump the other.
MR. DOYLE: That is correct.
REP. WALDEN: Okay. Talk to me about the requirements on LPFM. Do they have to have a main -- do they fall into the main studio rule?
MR. DOYLE: They do not have the main studio rule. They must be local. We don't have staffing requirements for them; we don't have public inspection files --
REP. WALDEN: So there -- I want to go back to that. So low- power FM: Do they have a requirement to serve their community, like commercial broadcasters do? And how do they identify their compliance with that, if they don't have a public file or a main studio? What does the FCC require?
MR. DOYLE: Well, every station must be -- a license must be held by a local community organization.
REP. WALDEN: Understood.
MR. DOYLE: It must be operated on a noncommercial basis --
REP. WALDEN: And how do you monitor that point? Because I've heard from people that they're out basically selling advertising. Are they allowed to do that?
MR. DOYLE: No, they are --
REP. WALDEN: Do you take enforcement actions?
MR. DOYLE: Not my division directly, but there --
REP. WALDEN: Could you provide me with enforcement actions you've taken and complaints you received, for the record?
MR. DOYLE: We'd be very happy to do so. And there have been some related to violations of our underwriting rule, so you are correct in that.
REP. WALDEN: I thought so.
I want to go back, though. As a citizen, I have the right to go into any radio -- commercial radio station, I assume public broadcast as well, and look at their public file to see how they're addressing the issues that are important to their community. What's the requirement for an LPFM? What's my right as a citizen to go in and see what they've identified as their community issues and how they're addressing them? Do I have a right to a public file?
MR. DOYLE: When the commission created this service, they decided that it would work best with very limited reporting and filing responsibilities, and they do not have --
REP. WALDEN: Do they have to do community ascertainment? Do they have to decide what's in the importance of their community?
MR. DOYLE: No, but certainly --
REP. WALDEN: Okay.
MR. DOYLE: -- like every other station, every eight years their license comes up for renewal, and the public is welcome to comment on whether the station has operated in the public interest.
REP. WALDEN: And that public interest, though, for other broadcasters -- that's pretty well spelled out. They have to serve their community, right? So you're telling me these LPFMs don't have to serve their community? How do I know? I mean, they don't have to identify --
MS. LEANZA: They have the same obligations.
REP. WALDEN: Oh, they do? So they do have a public file requirement?
MS. LEANZA: There's not a public file.
REP. WALDEN: And they have a main studio requirement, where I can go in and look?
MS. LEANZA: But they're licensed, also, under the Communications Act. They have an obligation to serve the public.
REP. WALDEN: I don't think your mike is on, by the way, as an old radio guy. There we go. Or just get real close to it.
So but I'm trying to get to this point of, they -- the public can go into any radio -- commercial or public broadcast station and look in the public file. My question is, do LPFMs have to have a public file?
MS. LEANZA: Currently, under the rules, they do not.
REP. WALDEN: And do they have to identify what the issues of concern are in their community and address those issues?
MS. LEANZA: They do, generally speaking, because they're subject to the same public interest standard that all broadcasts are subject to.
REP. WALDEN: So, Mr. Doyle, is that correct? They have to identify community interests on a quarterly basis and speak to how they address them?
MR. DOYLE: The quarterly issues programs list requirement does not apply to low-power stations.
REP. WALDEN: So how do you ever measure them when it comes up to license renewal whether they've served their community? What's the standard you apply?
MR. DOYLE: While listeners would not have the ability to review a station's issues programs list, they have the same opportunity as listeners of any station to come to the commission with their concerns about the programming that they have heard on the station during the prior license term.
REP. WALDEN: Are the LPFMs required to have the Emergency Alert System capabilities, too, to notify their listeners in the event of an emergency?
MR. DOYLE: They do have an EAS requirement.
REP. WALDEN: Okay. And they're not a priority station, though, I assume?
MR. DOYLE: I don't think any --
REP. WALDEN: Primary? None are primaries? Okay. All right.
MS. LEANZA: But they do -- most of them are set up automated, so they can transmit through that signal automatically at any time.
REP. WALDEN: Yeah, they're allowed to do unattended operation as well, right? Is there any requirement of local programming on those LPFMs, or could they just download satellite programming and rebroadcast it?
MR. DOYLE: Our licensing criteria favor those stations that pledge to do at least eight hours of locally originated programming, but there's no local program origination requirement.
MS. LEANZA: No different than on any other station. There's no such obligation on low power --
REP. WALDEN: All right. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. WEINER: Mr. Rush, there's less than a minute left on the clock on the floor. Would you like to try to squeeze in now, or you want to just be the first when we come back?
We're going to recess until about 12:25. I appreciate your patience, when we do -- there's nine of you; maybe you can go play baseball or something. (Laughter.) The committee's in recess until approximately 12:30.
REP. WEINER: The committee has returned from recess. The gentlewoman from California is recognized for five minutes.
REP. ANNA G. ESHOO (D-CA): I thank the chairman. It's nice to see you in the chair and I apologize both to committee members and to the witnesses that are here today, especially those that have an interest in the CALM Act, which I am the author of. I have three places that I needed to be at the exact same time today, and all of them important. So I apologize for being late. I'd like to submit my statement, my opening statement for the record.
REP. WEINER: We've got to get you one of those translator devices they were talking about; you can be everywhere at once. (Laughs.)
REP. ESHOO: Yeah. I'd like to submit my statement for the record and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank not only members of the committee that are co-sponsors of the CALM Act but also point to Chairman Boucher, because he's had a commitment to the bill and we wouldn't be a part of this hearing, this bill would not be part of the hearing today.
I think unless someone has said this, this is the bill. It's essentially a one-page bill. This is not complicated. And while I don't think I need to re-emphasize why the change needed, it's worth saying that I think consumers have waited too long for this change to be made. I am thrilled that there is technology and the confidence that there is technology that will address this.
I come from the technology capital of the United States of America, Silicon Valley. I have no doubt that technology can take care of this, and the technologists need to work hand in hand with the FCC. You're ready to go. This bill passes and is signed into law then you will have a key role in that. I don't find the bill menacing, most frankly, because all it does is instruct the FCC within a year of enactment to come up with a solution.
There were hearings in the '60s, there were hearings in the '70s, there were hearings in the '80s. It is now the 21st century; there is no reason for people to have to hit their mute buttons. There just isn't. I think it's a disadvantage to advertisers who pay a lot of money and how the broadcasters really keep themselves going, the programming and the networks. So I have to say that in 16 and a half years in Congress, I've never had a bill that was so embraced by so many. (Laughs.)
I don't even get to finish my sentence about what the bill would accomplish but people say, absolutely, good luck, we need to do this, it's a great source of irritation to me. So while this is a profoundly sobering time in the history of our nation, I by no means see the CALM Act as being something that is going to resolve huge, daunting national problems
It, frankly, is way down the list when we examine the great challenges that America has. But I do think that it's something that we should and that we can take care of. I think consumers have had it; newspapers have editorialized in different parts of the country. Consumers know what this is. You mention is, it's bipartisan. It's a bipartisan irritant; let's put it that way.
So to the technologists, I'm very pleased that you're taking this seriously and that you think that the answer is around the corner. You can take that great message to the FCC, and I look forward to this bill passing with huge support in both the House and in the other body, and I want to thank everyone that has been involved in this and those that have supported it, as well as those that have questions.
I think that you should take a deep breath, stay very calm -- if you don't mind my using the title of the bill -- that this one-page bill will bring some relief, a lot of relief, to a lot of people across the country. So with that I'll yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. Chairman, thank you and I'm going to return to my other committee and look forward to a great vote on this. Thank you very, very much.
REP. WEINER: The chair yields himself five minutes. If we could return for a moment to the Family Telephone Connection Protection Act: In the conversation between Mr. Stearns and I think the sheriff, or maybe Mr. Hopfinger, there was the position posited that perhaps telephone contact with the outside world is problematic. There's plans to sharing of information that might be deleterious.
That's contrary to what other findings that we've seen that said that frankly keeping connection not just inside the jail but having a connection outside with the world is actually salutary to their rehabilitation.
Mr. Krogh, do you want to weigh in on that discussion?
And then, Mr. Hopfinger, I'll give you another chance to expound on what you were saying.
MR. KROGH: Yes, the studies have uniformly demonstrated that maintaining these communications is very important for rehabilitation and especially in situations where you've got inmates who are very far away from their families, sometimes in other states, and it's crucial to have reasonable rates so that they can maintain these ties with the community and their families.
And you can also have good security. Securus, as I mentioned, that provides all of these security functions in a number of states and apparently they're able to do this and still make a profit at very reasonable rates. Florida, New Mexico are two examples. So there's no inconsistency between having reasonable rates so you have plenty of ties between the prisoners and their families.
REP. WEINER: Is there any evidence that the federal government, the federal penal system which has an 800 number for which families pay I think seven cents a minute -- is there any sign that those are less safe, any signs that there's any more sharing of information, any more witness tampering?
Is there any evidence at all to support the thesis that maybe having barriers to people making phone calls like a 600 percent additional cost compared to what the federal government charges -- is there any evidence at all to support the theory that that somehow reduces recidivism or it reduces witness tampering or anything like that? Is there any evidence that you've seen in your experience that shows that?
MR. KROGH: I haven't seen anything that shows that there are problems in the federal system, which has debit calling at a fairly reasonable rate. And again, if you've got -- you can have all the security functions so you can keep control over that call and still have a reasonable rate.
REP. WEINER: Mr. Hopfinger, do you want to take the contrary position? Turn your mike on for the recorder
MR. HOPFINGER: Let me say we concur that contact with the outside world by inmates is certainly appropriate. We wouldn't be in business if that contact didn't occur. But every system that we install must be customized and looked at on an individual basis.
Mr. Krogh has discussed large Department of Correction facilities where there are low rates, the federal facilities that have a large number of inmates where there are low rates. Those things don't necessarily fit, especially in the city and small county jails because just simply the volume of calls is not there in which to recover the cost.
We absolutely want to provide as much service and complete as many calls as we can, but it must be done so on a secure basis.
Our concern with the bill is it would mandate something that would not fit in many of the facilities, plus the fact that the bill goes well beyond talking about just rates. It mandates other issues that would, in fact, increase the cost to both our services and to the correctional facilities. So that is our concern.
REP. WEINER: Thank you. Let me just move on briefly to the CALM Act. I'm curious why this is such a difficult technological fix. Certainly that if someone wants to advertise on a local TV station that they're told that they have to provide the advertisement in a certain format, it's got to be on a certain size disc or a certain size tape -- I'm sure they're told that it has to be of a certain length, a certain duration. It has to be of a certain quality in order -- why can't you just say it's got to be no louder than X? Why don't you say as a standard for what you're going to accept for advertising, you've got to be in this category? They play the tape; if it's not you say you've got to go back to your shop and fix it. Tell me why that intuitive reaction to this problem is technologically difficult.
Mr. Donovan, fire away.
MR. DONOVAN: I think essentially you're correct, which is why you're seeing policies that have been established by the major networks, for example, that have precisely that in which they would like their advertising and their programming to be sent to them in a certain way. You do have a variety of program suppliers and advertisers and what have you bringing in the inputs. You have local advertising, you have national spot advertising, syndicated programming, network programming. But that is all -- candidly, it's all being worked out. The networks have established the policies to do that.
So conceptually you're right. This is something that needs to be done and is being done. Where it got a little bit tricky here, and I'll let Jim go into detail on this, but where it got tricky is that you want to make sure that while you're controlling the advertising aspects in terms of loudness and what have you, you don't want to squelch the benefits of the digital system, i.e. the Dolby 5.1, which has tremendous dynamic range for consumers who have bought surround sound, theater sets and what have you, because if you just put a level right across the board, not only would you hit the advertising, but you would also hit the program. So that is what's made it a little bit tricky as we move forward with digital, which is why, I mean, we've been working on this since 2007. And I think as Jim will tell you, we're there. I mean, you're literally several months away from actually working out an ATSC standard that will resolve it.
The concern we have now, sir, is that as I said, engineers are problem solvers, and we're there. Once you create a -- and there are winners and losers whenever you have these engineering battles -- once you create a new venue, which is, okay, now we're going to kick it over to the FCC for a rule, what you sometimes do -- and it's true in any standard setting issue that gets kicked over to the commission, you create a jump ball and you start over.
REP. WEINER: I understand that and I heard that in the testimony. But if you look at our punch list of the reasons people commonly oppose legislation, like one of the general reasons is we agree, we're on it, got you covered, no need to pass any legislation and it doesn't -- it strikes some of us who obviously are not technology people like you are --
MR. DONOVAN: Right.
REP. BOUCHER: -- that it seems like a relatively easy fix was coming and it never arrived. But I --
MR. DONOVAN: Oh, it's here.
REP. BOUCHER: I hear you.
Mr. Starzynski, maybe you can just answer why you can't just say, look, here's your checklist of things and requirements you need to have, being excessively loud when you're selling a chamois or whatever it is --
MR. STARZYNSKI: You've hit the critical part of the issue. So we publish a content specification, a delivery spec that goes out to all of our suppliers. It doesn't matter if they're program suppliers or if they're commercial suppliers; we ask them to hit a target level, like I said in my testimony.
The issue has been that with the digital transition and moving off of analog and going to digital with all this great range that we've been speaking about, there's the opportunity there to have problems with controlling your loudness if you don't understand the new techniques that are involved. Or if you don't own the equipment that's necessary that I spoke about before which kind of changes the game in the way all of this is done through the ITU standard and which the gentleman from Consumer Reports spoke about.
So the ATSC-recommended practice goes right to the heart of that, and it says you will use this standard to measure your sound, and you'll take those readings and you'll deliver your content as asked in the program spec, and we all put this in there. But I think what you're getting at is the issue is that -- you remember I spoke a little bit before about the culture change. We've had a lot of folks mixing sound with old analog techniques for a very long time, using meters that protected the electronics -- not meters, contemporary meters, like the ones that work like your ears do. So we get this out in the industry; we've got a road map on where we need to go with this, technology is catching up on this, things are becoming cheaper, and the bill that's out in front of us today really has raised such a level of awareness across the industry that it's like a no-brainer that this has got to happen.
We're not disputing that there's a problem here. We've got to fix the problem and again, and this just rings true. The engineers that are kind of working on this, whose living is based on this, want to go out there and fix this and make it right for the public. Is that helpful?
REP. WEINER: It was. Thank you.
MR. KELSEY: Can I just quickly add I think one of the things that we saw with the DTV transition is that many broadcasters are different and I think the broadcasters that step up and adopt the standard should definitely be commended for changing this but, you know, a standard is one of the key ways to make sure that listeners in Dallas experience the same type of viewing as listeners in New York. And so, you know, I would urge the committee and also the FCC to --
REP. WEINER: We're used to a higher volume in New York but -- (laughter).
MR. : What can I do about that?
REP. WEINER: Do you have one final point you want to --
MR. DONAVAN: One final point on that is because when the ATSC standard was adopted it includes a number of voluntary components to that standard.
And to Chairman Boucher's initial comment -- question -- even though they are voluntary they are adopted throughout the industry. So it's not a question that you have to have this or something won't get done. This will get adopted and disseminate throughout the entire industry.
REP. WEINER: Okay. Thank you.
And before I yield to Mr. Rush just with -- request unanimous consent that two editorials about the high cost of phone service being charged to inmates by Errol Louis of the Daily News be included in the record.
Without objection, so ordered.
Now, Mr. Rush, you're recognized for such time as you may consume.
REP. RUSH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Boy oh boy oh boy, I think I heard it all, Mr. Chairman.
Let me just start by -- first of all, on a good note -- Ms. Leanza, I want to thank you for obtaining support from 20 media justice organizations around the country in support of this bill. Would you please express my thanks and gratitude to all of them, please?
I want to also, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, announce that this bill, my bill, H.R. 1133 has been urged to be adopted by the American Correctional Association. They're on record in support of the goals of this legislation -- ensuring access to reasonably priced telecommunications services.
Now, I want to -- Mr. Hopfinger, you have really kind of stretched the issue so thin I don't know how really to express how preposterous I think it is. Are you trying to tell me that this grandmama who's got a grandson that she's been trying to raise in a poor community, she's on a fixed income, are you trying to tell me that your company has a right to snatch her hard -- her scarce dollars, first of all -- she's on a fixed income -- to pay for you gouging her grandson who's an inmate and somehow you justify it by saying that you are on the lookout for al Qaeda or al Qaeda operatives? Are you trying to tell this committee, subcommittee, that that's a part of your rationale?
MR. HOPFINGER: Congressman, we are not trying to gouge anyone.
Our rates are -- try to be compensatory in offering the services we do and we offer those services in a manner that we hope protects the public and the safety of the inmates. The rates are higher in most correctional institutions because of those requirements.
REP. RUSH: All right.
SHERIFF GOAD: Yes, sir?
REP. RUSH: You have indicated that you have some services that are paid for. A lot of them are programs that are paid for by these exorbitant rates -- these excessive rates that inmates are being charged.
SHERIFF GOAD: Yes, sir.
REP. RUSH: Can you give us an idea of some of those services?
SHERIFF GOAD: Yes, sir.
The inmate -- a lot of it's inmate welfare funds. A lot of that --
REP. RUSH: What do you mean by that?
SHERIFF GOAD: Underwear, socks, toothbrushes, toothpaste.
REP. RUSH: Okay, in the absence of these funds -- in the absence of this usurious business arrangement between this company or whatever company that exists, are you saying that your inmates would be forced to run around naked? Is that what you're saying?
SHERIFF GOAD: No, sir, I would not.
REP. RUSH: All right. What alternatives are there?
SHERIFF GOAD: In the past prior to some of the things that are in place now with the resources that we have a lot of your community people provided these issues to -- such as underwear and socks and some other things to our inmates.
REP. RUSH: And you're saying that there is no responsibility, first and foremost, by the government of Maryland to provide these kinds of items for the inmates?
SHERIFF GOAD: No, sir, I would not say that.
REP. RUSH: Okay. And so then the little grandmamas or the single mothers who have small children and one or two who might be incarcerated, are you saying, then, that they should be taking food off their table to pay for underwear that really is the responsibility of the state of Maryland?
Is that what you guys are telling this committee?
SHERIFF GOAD: No. On that note, I would not say that.
I would say we're providing a service to the inmate and of course that service is not --
REP. RUSH: Okay, what other -- what other laudable programs besides making sure that the inmates, you know, have Michael Jordan underwear. What other laudable programs you got?
SHERIFF GOAD: We do anti-recidivism programs, we do AIDS education, basic adult education, which is GED, substance abuse programs along with child --
REP. RUSH: And what percentage of these commissions go toward those programs?
SHERIFF GOAD: Most all the commissions that we receive back is generated back into our facility.
REP. RUSH: Okay. For your exemplary employees that you might have -- do you have exemplary employees in your -- under your --
SHERIFF GOAD: Yes.
REP. RUSH: And do you give them a bonus?
SHERIFF GOAD: No, sir, I do not.
REP. RUSH: Are you aware of any state prison ward or prison system that gives its employees bonuses?
SHERIFF GOAD: Currently, sir, I do not have that --
REP. RUSH: You don't have that information.
So you're saying, then, that most of the -- that there are no -- none of these commissions go toward bonuses for your employees?
SHERIFF GOAD: Can I say that specifically? No, sir. But I don't have that information in front of me currently.
REP. RUSH: Okay, let me make sure you understand. All right, I mean, you're the sheriff of what county?
SHERIFF GOAD: Allegheny County.
REP. RUSH: Allegheny County. Is there any employees in Allegheny County that receive a bonus?
SHERIFF GOAD: No, sir.
REP. RUSH: There is no -- okay.
SHERIFF GOAD: That's right.
REP. RUSH: Okay.
How does -- in terms of the bidding process, how did you select this -- what company do you have to give --
SHERIFF GOAD: What company do we have?
REP. RUSH: -- right -- do you use?
SHERIFF GOAD: We use a company with Securus.
REP. RUSH: Securus.
Okay, how did you select that Securus?
SHERIFF GOAD: We actually put out an RFP.
REP. RUSH: And what did you make that decision based on? What did you make the decision based on?
SHERIFF GOAD: Based on the software, their security equipment.
REP. RUSH: Okay, what -- how much influence did the cost of that or your remuneration on your commission -- what percentage of that had an influence on your -- let me ask the question correctly: How much bearing did the cost or the commission that you were going to receive, how much bearing did that have on your decision to hire Securus.
SHERIFF GOAD: Not a large bearing.
REP. RUSH: But some bearing, is that correct, some bearing?
SHERIFF GOAD: I'd say some bearing, yes, sir.
REP. RUSH: And if in fact you did not have this organization or have this kind of arrangement then you would be -- where would you get the money to make up the hole in your budget? Where would you secure that money from?
SHERIFF GOAD: If we failed to -- if the resources were terminated we would have to go back to the county and look at the burden on the taxpayers.
REP. RUSH: Okay, explain to me how you think that your program, creating and charging these families -- not necessarily the inmates -- how does that affect -- have an affect on the recidivism issue in your county?
SHERIFF GOAD: Well, our recidivism for some is higher than others. Some of our recidivism is very low. I think, again, as I mentioned in my testimony, I think communication is very essential.
REP. RUSH: Are you elected? Are you elected to office?
SHERIFF GOAD: Yes, sir.
REP. RUSH: Okay. And so you're -- and in your past campaigns for office have you ever ran on -- had a part of your -- how long have you been sheriff, first of all?
SHERIFF GOAD: I'm on my 15th year, my fourth term, sir -- 31 years --
REP. RUSH: Fourth term. And you say you ran three times or four times?
SHERIFF GOAD: Four times.
REP. RUSH: Okay. And have you ever included in your campaign material for re-election that you are able to justify to your voters or highlight to your voters that because their -- you have high-cost telephone service that you have these -- and this arrangement with this company that you are able to have a detrimental effect on recidivism rate?
SHERIFF GOAD: Have I ever? No, sir, I haven't.
REP. RUSH: Okay. So that's not a claim that you might -- that you would promote?
SHERIFF GOAD: No.
REP. RUSH: Do your voters know that they're being gouged or being overly charged on these rates, that that is having that kind of effect on public policy?
SHERIFF GOAD: Well, I can't speculate on that, but I do the majority of the public is familiar with our rates.
REP. RUSH: All right, Mr. Krogh, you mentioned in your testimony that a few states have taken action to require that cost be the dominant factor in determining which bidder wins -- an exclusive contract with the state correctional facility and the price includes permitted charges and connection charges.
Do you have any information on the effect such decisions have had on these services?
MR. KROGH: Well, generally just simply that the higher the rate the less calling there is, the less communication there is by the prisoners. And the families often have to refuse calls.
REP. RUSH: Right. Can you respond, if you will, to the position of both Mr. Hopfinger and Mr. Goad that national security is dependent on the -- Mr. Hopfinger's company charging excessively for phone service for inmates and Sheriff Goad's agency or organization receiving high commissions from the actions and activities of Mr. Hopfinger's organization? Can you comment on that fact?
MR. KROGH: Yes. As I've mentioned, Securus and other service providers are able to provide these services with all of the required security functions that Mr. Hopfinger talked --
REP. RUSH: No, I'm not talking about the security functions in that regard in terms of instrumentality. I'm talking about the national security.
MR. KROGH: Well, but, I mean -- and sure, to the extent that the telephone service has any impact on national security one way or the other. They can meet all of -- whatever security requirements are imposed on them by the correctional department or the authorities, they can meet all those requirements at very reasonable rates. And so they shouldn't be charging higher than that.
REP. RUSH: Yeah. So am I to believe or members of the subcommittee to believe that those states and those counties that don't have exorbitant rates, that they're somehow less concerned about national security than the ones who charge exorbitant rates?
MR. KROGH: No, I don't think that's -- we can draw that conclusion.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons has reasonable debit rates for prisoners. I'm sure they're the state of the art in terms of security, all the security functions that you need.
And these states that have the reasonable rates -- there's a variety of states, Florida, New Mexico, Nebraska, New York -- all of these states, I'm sure, are just as -- they're focusing on the security functions, especially New York, as much as any other correctional authorities in any other state. And they have come to the conclusion they don't need to charge these exorbitant rates to maintain all the security functions they need.
REP. RUSH: Mr. Chairman, I -- well, let me just ask one additional question here.
Sheriff Goad, what equipment do you use to monitor and track inmate calls?
SHERIFF GOAD: The equipment is provided through Evercom with Cirrus (ph) Communication.
REP. RUSH: Okay. And where is it located at?
SHERIFF GOAD: In my facility.
REP. RUSH: In your facility, okay.
Does that equipment provide you additional security measures?
SHERIFF GOAD: It provides me the ability to monitor those inmates that I have in my facility, yes, sir.
REP. RUSH: Okay. It provides -- so lacking that equipment you couldn't monitor your inmates?
SHERIFF GOAD: No, sir.
REP. RUSH: Okay, is there any other equipment available to you off the shelf?
SHERIFF GOAD: I have -- no, not off the shelf, but I also have -- video cameras is the only other use of security equipment that we use, but they're not audio, they're just video.
REP. RUSH: Okay, if you had multiple carriers and the inmates had a choice, would your ability to monitor your inmates, would that be hindered at all?
SHERIFF GOAD: I'm not a technical person, but I don't know how that would work.
REP. RUSH: You don't know how that would work?
SHERIFF GOAD: I'm not sure how multiple carriers would actually work if you had numerous providers.
REP. RUSH: Okay. But you don't -- so you're not sure whether or not it would be a hindrance right now? Is that what your answer indicates?
SHERIFF GOAD: To me -- and, again, I'm not a technical person -- but it seems to me if the more providers I have it would be a hindrance to us trying to provide each inmate with each particular provider that they so chose.
REP. WEINER: Would the gentleman yield for a moment?
Is there any reason you can't just have a series of different 800 numbers that people can dial and then the surveillance equipment is all just on the hardware? I mean, why couldn't you have a choice of five or six different 800 numbers you can dial?
SHERIFF GOAD: Can I defer to Mr. Hopfinger?
REP. WEINER: Certainly.
MR. HOPFINGER: Technically I do not --
REP. WEINER: I hear you now. Go ahead, Mr. Hopfinger.
MR. HOPFINGER: Yes. What happens is is when an 800 number is called the system loses all track of where the call actually terminates. All we know is an 800 number was called and then there's a series of numbers dialed after that. The system wouldn't know where that call actually terminated, who received that call, whether it was a call next door or across the nation.
REP. WEINER: And that failure of knowing who the inmate is calling provides a security risk you say?
MR. HOPFINGER: Absolutely.
REP. WEINER: Got you.
Thank you, Mr. Rush.
REP. RUSH: Yeah.
And my final question: How much -- so your -- Mr. Hopfinger, your business activities are centered on exclusively incarcerated individuals in a jail system. And that's where -- that your market, that's your niche in the market, is that right?
MR. HOPFINGER: Yes, Congressman Rush. We are exclusively an inmate telecommunications service provider.
REP. RUSH: Okay. So you actually have a captive audience. That's what you, I mean, literally speaking, you have a captive audience, right?
MR. HOPFINGER: Well, I wouldn't consider it a captive audience because I've got a lot of other competitors out there that want that business so I don't get all that business.
REP. RUSH: It's pretty lucrative, right?
MR. HOPFINGER: I beg your pardon.
REP. RUSH: It's pretty lucrative?
MR. HOPFINGER: No, sir, it is not.
If you will look at our SEC filings, we actually operated at a loss in 2008. And most of the inmate telephone service providers, I met with two presidents last week and they are hoping for a low single-digit return on their investment this year.
REP. RUSH: Okay. Well, thank you and I yield back the balance of my time.
REP. WEINER: Well, I thank you, Mr. Rush, the author of the bill.
Hopefully we'll have quieter TV commercials, we'll have community broadcasters be able to tell everyone that information without interference, and then I guess prisoners will be able to call home and brag about it less expensively.
I ask unanimous consent to keep the record open for an appropriate period of time for members to submit opening statements and questions for the record. I thank -- without objection, so ordered.
And I thank all of the witnesses for their patience and their excellent testimony. The committee is adjourned. (Sounds gavel.)