Take the Blinders Off Our First Responders
October 17, 2005

When Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast, it left many police and other first responders unable to communicate with each other or anyone else.  Their cell phones failed.  Landlines were submerged, and access to the internet was spotty at best.  These communications failures slowed and stymied efforts to save lives and property. 

The obstacles emergency responders face are the most dramatic side to the problem.  But the issues involving our public airwaves are bigger than that.  When it comes to access to high-speed internet, the U.S. has fallen behind most of the developed world.  More citizens of Korea have broadband access than Americans do.  

Why has this happened?  Blame the powerful broadcast lobby.  Broadcasters have been squatters on our publicly owned airwaves, resisting attempts to free up these airwaves for use by local governments to build networks that would both link police, fire and other emergency responders, and also bring low-cost, high-speed internet to all their citizens, including low-income, minority and rural families. 

This week, Congress is considering legislation that could fix this problem.  This time Congress needs to listen to the American people, not special interests like the National Association of Broadcasters.  Congress needs to take action to free up our public airwaves and take them out of the hands of private interests.  

Call your Senators today.  They can vote to allocate a portion of the airwaves for public use, and they can direct the Federal Communications Commission to issue rules to use our airwaves more efficiently and prevent broadcasters from hogging airwaves they don't need.  

Find the phone numbers of your Senators by going to the following link:


We can't allow corporate interests to subvert public safety or to cheat some Americans out of the benefits of our advanced communications technology.  We use the internet to find jobs, to build small businesses, to take care of our health, to advance in school.  Those benefits must be available to all Americans.  

For more information on this issue, please read our report, "A Failure to Communicate" by clicking here (PDF file).

Congressional staffers are writing the bill as you read this.  Please tell your Senators that our valuable airwaves must be shared with the public so that local communities can protect their citizens and offer them the benefits of high-speed internet access:


Call them today and please ask your family, friends, anyone else who may be concerned about this issue to support our efforts to make sure the public benefits from our publicly owned airwaves, not special interests. 

Let us know how your calls are going by commenting on our blog.  

Thank you again for all you do for Common Cause. 


Celia Wexler
On behalf of
Celia, Lauren, and Dawn
The Common Cause Media Reform Team