The U.S. Forest Service has agreed to modify proposed fee increases for television and other electronic relay equipment on federal lands, in a move crucial to rural Utah communities, Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, said Wednesday.
Nielson said the decision is likely to save Utah's extensive television translator network and mean continued TV service to rural Utahns.The Forest Service two years ago proposed fees for electronic facilities on service and Bureau of Land Management property that would have meant about $400,000 annually in Utah payments.
"That was just too much of a burden for our small communities to carry," Nielson said. "And since our radio and television stations receive very little advertising revenue from markets beyond the Wasatch Front, they would not have picked up the tab either.
"So, our small, outlying communities would have been without television transmission."
Under the revised schedule, any publicly owned translator or electronic facility may apply to the Forest Service for a waiver of fees, Niel-son said. And "since 99 percent of the translators in Utah are owned and operated by cities or counties, it is expected those applications would be approved."
The decision by Stan Tixier, the service's regional forester, "apparently has opened the door for the current system to continue in operation," Nielson said.
"Had he not been willing" to agree to requested modifications, "we certainly would have taken the issue to the floor of Congress. We were hoping not to go that far."
Utah stations have the largest broadcast area in the country because of its extensive translator network, Nielson said.