This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As a rancher and a member of the Summit County Council, I have followed with great interest the proposed AT&T merger with T-Mobile. It might seem odd to some that a rancher and a dairyman from Kamas would care about such a thing, but I can explain.
Last week The Tribune ran a guest opinion article by a gentleman representing rural wireless providers, seeking to block the proposed merger. The writer went so far as to write, "There is nothing good in this merger for rural America."
As one who lives and works in rural America, I beg to differ.
In my work as a rancher I deal all the time with limited or nonexistent wireless coverage in various areas of the state. It is dangerous in this day and age to be without a way to call for help. As a County Council member, I deal with budgeting thousands of dollars each year to fund county search and rescue teams. Summit is usually first or second in the state in such expenditures because our county is the jump-off point for many hikers and campers who head into the beautiful wilderness areas of the Uinta Mountains.
We have known for years that if there were working cell coverage into those areas, fewer recreation seekers would become lost or stranded.
But we are not simply talking better cell coverage. Legitimate 4G broadband network access for huge areas of rural Utah simply cannot be described as "nothing good." Looking into the matter, I have learned that AT&T is making a major commitment to rural America, rolling out wireless 4G broadband to an additional 55 million Americans tens of thousands of them right here in Utah who are currently without needed broadband coverage. The impact of wireless Internet access on rural community life in education, government, medicine and economic development cannot be overestimated.
The new technologies and investment that would facilitate AT&T's proposed 4G broadband coverage would mean that vast underserved areas in the Uintah Basin, Carbon and Emery counties, the Four Corners region, and the Kanab area would have access to wireless broadband. Instead of a thin band down the I-15 corridor, major swaths of Utah would enjoy full coverage. It is not only a safety issue, it is a boon to job creation and quality of life throughout the state.
So what are the arguments against the merger? Opponents issue dire warnings of monopoly pricing. The same warnings were heard before the five major wireless mergers that have taken place since 1999 while prices fell 50 percent over that span. The wireless market is too global and dynamic, with too many new players and technologies on the horizon, to suffer from lack of competition.
Critics also allege that the major providers will control and limit handheld devices; the handset market is global, and there are more than 600 options available today. They predict job losses, yet the Communications Workers of America is one of the merger's strongest proponents.
So why does a rancher from Kamas support this merger? Because the need for fast, reliable broadband in rural America is too pressing for continued inaction. We cannot afford to lag behind any longer.
Our nation has long recognized the need for universal broadband coverage. The AT&T/T-Mobile merger gives us that opportunity using private investment dollars rather than tax dollars, and brings the service much sooner than any of us had dared hope. That is why we should not allow naysayers and narrow concerns to derail what will be a major step forward for rural America's future development.
David Ure is a rancher, Summit County Council member and former majority whip in the Utah House of Representatives. He lives in Kamas.