Taxpayers Protection Alliance
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Category: Telecommunications

  • The Cable Industry Needs Less Regulation and More Freedom

    David Williams on May 17, 2012

    Cable TV

    Fortunately, the free market doesn’t work like group projects in grade school where one poor performer could bring down the grade of the entire group.  When one company fails or does not adequately meet customer demands, it may go under – but usually this does not lead to the failure of an entire industry. And that particular company’s shortcomings don’t typically have negative repercussions on the industry or hold the future of the industry back.  That is unless – or until – the government regulates that industry.  There has been a concerted push to regulate the broadband industry and make it into a quasi-public utility and the repercussions could be disastrous.  Another thing left back in grade school is a teacher to go cry to when things don’t go one’s way.  But that hasn’t stopped Netflix from pouting over a new specialized service Comcast is offering.  The service allows Comcast’s Xbox 360 customers to stream thousands of movies and shows from XFINITY On Demand without counting against the data usage threshold that applies to broadband internet access services. (And it should be exempt from such a data cap because the service in question is a cable service, which would render the rules governing Internet streaming inapplicable).

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  • RUS Never Sleeps, It Just Grows

    David Williams on March 19, 2012

    Every time that Congress debates and crafts a new Farm Bill there is an opportunity for them to either embrace free market reforms or continue business as usual.  This year is no different as Congress crafts the latest Farm Bill.   From agricultural subsidies to government run broadband, this Farm Bill, along with every other Farm Bill, is a reflection of members of the House and Senate and their desire to embrace the true tenets of the free market or continue the wasteful inefficient ways of the past.  There is no other issue that is pervading the government more than the obsession to spend as much money on government funded broadband as possible.  There multiple ways that the government funds broadband and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) is the way it is funded in the Farm Bill. Unfortunately, RUS's track record is abysmal as more money is spent to subsidize service in areas that are already served.  All hope is not lost.  With vigorous attention paid to the deficit and debt, taxpayers are even more aware and vocal about the financial strains of the federal government.  As House and Senate Ag Committee members craft this year's bill they should ensure that the new Farm Bill requires RUS approved loans to include 90 percent of households without any broadband service.  This would be a significant step forward in crafting a fiscally responsible Farm Bill.

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  • UNintended Consequences of an Internet Takeover and a New Tax

    David Williams on February 24, 2012

    The United Nations has been very busy these days with talk of taking over the Internet and the World Health Organization (WHO) moving at lightning speed to implement new tobacco taxes.  According to The Daily Caller, “On Feb. 27, a diplomatic process will begin in Geneva that could result in a new treaty giving the United Nations unprecedented powers over the Internet. Dozens of countries, including Russia and China, are pushing hard to reach this goal by year’s end. As Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said last June, his goal and that of his allies is to establish ‘international control over the Internet’ through the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a treaty-based organization under U.N. auspices.”  The WHO describes its new tax regime, The Solidarity Tobacco Contribution (STC) as "a novel approach developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in response to the recommendation made by the High-Level Taskforce on Innovative Financing for Health Systems to ‘expand the mandatory solidarity levy on airline tickets and explore the technical viability of other solidarity levies on tobacco and currency transactions.’”  Both actions could mean bad news for consumers and taxpayers.

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  • FCC Almost Fumbles Super Bowl in Boston

    David Williams on January 30, 2012

    There is no doubt that the citizens of New England, and in particular Boston, are focused on the Patriots going to and winning the Super Bowl.  What they didn’t realize is that Washington, D.C., and the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) retransmission consent rules, almost stopped them from watching the Super Bowl.   According to a January 26, 2012 article in the Union Leader, “Villandry is among 200,000 DirecTV subscribers who may be blacked out from watching Super Bowl XLVI, the result of an ongoing dispute between the satellite provider and Sunbeam Television Corporation, which owns the NBC affiliate in Boston. A conflict over retransmission consent fees has prevented DirecTV customers in Greater Boston and New Hampshire from watching NBC since Jan. 14.”  Luckily, an agreement was reached to ensure that the game could be watched by those DirecTV subscribers.  The threatened blackout was a reminder of how Washington policies continue to hinder the free market from working.

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  • Government Bytes the Dust

    David Williams on January 20, 2012

    There are situations and stories that really crystalize the differences between the private and public sectors.  A report by reveals one of the moments in its January 19 article “$356 Million Later, the Justice Department’s Wireless Network Still Sucks.”  According to the article, “After 9/11, three federal law enforcement agencies planned a massive project to replace a mishmash of aging and obsolete radios used by thousands of federal agents. A decade and $356 million later, the program has made ‘minimal progress’ and the Department of Homeland Security, one of the project’s key partners, wants little to do with it.”  This is not surprising considering the technological ineptitude of the federal government.

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  • A New Year Means New Challenges and New Opportunities

    David Williams on January 3, 2012

    When the 112th Congress took over in January, 2011, there was quite a bit of excitement and anticipation that the newly elected members (including dozens of tea party members) would be aggressive in demanding real spending cuts and accountability.  With a near-miss government shutdown in April, a debt ceiling scare in August and the failure of the super committee in November, last year was filled with missed opportunities to institute real spending cuts.  With the federal debt eclipsing $15 trillion in 2011, Congress has quite a bit of work to do in 2012.  In addition to the annual budget fiascos that are typical of Washington, D.C., there are seven key areas (Agriculture, Defense, Energy, the Food and Drug Administration/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tax Reform, Telecommunications/Technology, and Transportation) that will determine if Congress and the President are serious about bringing spending under control and having a more efficient government.

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  • Stimulus Update: Broadband Program Doesn’t Connect (Part II)

    David Williams on December 22, 2011

    Last week, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) reported on the failure of the National Telecommunications Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) to complete any projects (read full posting here).  Now, as promised, Part II of the series focuses on the Rural Utilities Service’s (RUS) $2.5 billion handout from taxpayers through The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka The Stimulus Bill) for broadband deployment.  Even with less money allocated to it than BTOP, RUS has experienced more problems and even bigger questions about the federal government’s role in funding broadband.

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  • Stimulus Update: Broadband Program Doesn't Connect (Part I)

    David Williams on December 16, 2011

    The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka The Stimulus Bill) was supposed to lift the country out of its recession and be an engine for economic growth and job creation.  More than two years and $800 billion later, the taxpayer horror stories are still rolling in (read TPA Senior Fellow Drew Johnson’s blog posting on stimulus funded alligator wrestling here).  Now, we find out that one of the key programs of the stimulus bill has had ZERO success.  According to a December 12, 2011 article in the Daily Caller, “As of the third quarter of 2011, no projects from the federal government’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) — a technology stimulus program funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) — have been completed.”  This revelation comes as no surprise to the many folks who questioned the expenditure when it was first announced.

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  • FCC Report Exposes Questionable 9-1-1 Expenditures

    David Williams on November 29, 2011

    Besides the occasional goofball complaining about a non-delivered pizza or somebody asking how to work his iPhone, most of the time when somebody calls 9-1-1 they are experiencing a dire emergency and need the system to work quickly and efficiently.  While some telecommunications taxes and fees may be controversial, mobile (and landline) customers understand the need for an efficient 9-1-1 system and are willing to pay for that system.  The number of 9-1-1 calls and the amount collected is staggering.  According to CTIA-The Wireless Association®, “Every day, 396,000 9-1-1 calls are made on wireless devices. With almost 30 percent of wireless-only Americans, mobile consumers pay more than $2 billion a year for their states’ 9-1-1 funds to ensure our nation’s first responders are properly equipped to handle wireless distress calls.”  A report earlier this month by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) shows that not all money being collected from the fund is being used for the proper purposes.

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  • Senate Set to Vote on Killing Net Neutrality

    David Williams on November 8, 2011

    UPDATE:  Today (November 10, 2011) the Senate voted along party lines (46-52) to allow the FCC to proceed with net neutrality regulations which will kill jobs and innovation. With all of the issues currently on the table regarding the economy- jobs, taxes, the debate on spending cuts- the last thing our country needs is for the federal government to be distracted.  It is ridiculous that Congress and the Senate have to spend time dealing with matters that aren’t really problems. But that is what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is forcing our officials to do. The FCC’s rules on net neutrality are due to take effect on November 20, despite opposition from both sides of the aisle and dissent from throughout the administration.  Having already been rebuked by the House, the Senate has a little less than two weeks to overturn the regulations.  Policymakers should realize that, right now, time is of the essence.  Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) is trying to stop net neutrality in its tracks with legislation that would prevent the FCC from implementing the new rules.  With a vote expected on Thursday November 10, 2011, on “S. J. RES. 6:  Disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission with respect to regulating the Internet and broadband industry practices,” the Taxpayers Protection Alliance sent a TPAPB to all Senate offices urging the Senate to vote for Sen. Hutchison’s legislation.  The House has already passed the bill overturning the FCC’s net neutrality rules.  The need for this vote to come soon is critical, as the regulations which the FCC is trying to institute are due to come into effect on November 20th.  TPA urges all taxpayers to contact their Senators and urge them to vote for "S.J RES. 6: Disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission with respect to regulating the Internet and broadband industry practices." (click here to find your Senator).

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  • The Wireless Tax Fairness Act - Taxpayers and Consumers Win!

    David Williams on November 1, 2011

    It’s not very frequently that the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) reports on a victory, but this evening (November 1) was a banner moment for everyone that owns a cell phone.  The House of Representatives passed H.R. 1002, the Wireless Tax Fairness Act.  This bi-partisan bill, with 236 co-sponsors, freezes all new state and local taxes and fees on wireless for 5 years.  The official scoring entity of Congress, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), scored it as no additional cost to any level of government.  A true win!  Mobile devices are becoming a popular way to purchase books, music, or just download any content via the Internet.  The Wireless Tax Fairness Act stops states and local governments from imposing multiple or discriminatory taxes on these items.

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  • Trick or Treat! Telecommunications Policy

    David Williams on October 24, 2011

    The Taxpayers Protection Alliance is celebrating Halloween all week long as we present the Tricks or Treats of the federal government over the last year.  Taxpayers should be frightened as Washington, D.C. continues to waste money and pass onerous regulations that will prolong the economic downturn.  The first creepy installment are the Tricks or Treats of telecommunications policy.  Net neutrality and retransmission continue to be the tricks and there is some treat (that may easily turn into a trick) with the Universal Service Fund.  Be sure to check back on Wednesday and Friday for two more sets of Tricks or Treats.  WARNING!! We advise strong parental guidance because some material may not be suitable for children since they are the ones that will ultimately be paying for these tricks.

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  • Opposing Net Neutrality Regulations Should be Bi-Partisan

    David Williams on October 4, 2011

    The new net neutrality rules are set to go into effect on November 20, just a few days before Thanksgiving.  Instead of giving thanks for these new regulations, taxpayers, consumers, and all web surfers will be given the bird by the federal government.  Net neutrality is the wrong solution to a non-existent problem. “Net neutrality,” which is loosely defined as a system that allows information on the Internet to move freely without regard to content is in reality, a not so subtle attempt to regulate the Internet.  The battle over net neutrality has typically been with proponents of net neutrality being on the left side of the political spectrum and those opposing being on the right side of the political spectrum.  The reality is that opposing these regulations should be bi-partisan.  Besides the potential cost to taxpayers and the lack of need to regulate a dynamic industry, the most compelling argument against net neutrality is what happened in Egypt ten months ago when the government denied Internet access to its citizens in the wake of their revolution. » Read More
  • Free Market and Taxpayer Advocacy Groups Urge Congress to Reform the Universal Service Fund

    David Williams on September 23, 2011

    The Universal Service Fund (USF), which is supposed to bring telephone service to mainly rural areas, has its roots in decades-old laws that aimed to solve a problem that no longer exists. The Telecommunications Act of 1934 - yes, 1934 - aimed to subsidize the expansion of telephone service into rural America. The fund’s new goal is to shift the focus of universal service from telephone to Internet service. But Americans should be careful not to assume that refocusing a New Deal program on modern technology will promote innovation or efficiency. Unless we are careful, it might do little more than perpetuate an aging entitlement program by giving it a high-tech paint job.  On September 21, 2011 the Taxpayers Protection Alliance joined with Americans for Tax Reform, the National Taxpayers Union, and Americans for Prosperity to urge congress to make sure that any USF reform focus on reducing costs (read full letter here).

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  • FCC Should Rethink Cross Ownership Ban

    on August 16, 2011

    Today (August 16) the Taxpayers Protection Alliance filed official comments with the Federal Communications Commission urging them to recognize that the Section 652 cross-ownership ban should not apply to cable operators and competitive local exchange carriers (CLECS).  As part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Section 652 was intended to prevent incumbent LECs, which owned the telephone lines, and traditional cable operators, which owned the cable lines—from merging and thereby controlling the only two wires to a customer’s premises.  There is no indication that Congress intended to restrict transactions between cable operators and the CLECS, especially when the CLEC does not own residential last-mile facilities.  Stronger competition among providers of telephone services will lead to lower prices, better service quality, and increased innovation » Read More
  • Time to Reform the Universal Service Fund

    David Williams on July 29, 2011

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the Universal Service Fund (USF) in 1996 to “promote the availability of quality services at just, reasonable and affordable rates for all consumers; increase nationwide access to advanced telecommunications services; advance the availability of such services to all consumers, including those in low income, rural, insular and high cost areas at rates that are reasonably comparable to those charged in urban areas;  increase access to telecommunications and advanced services in schools, libraries and rural health care facilities; and provide equitable and non-discriminatory contributions from all providers of telecommunications services to the fund supporting universal service programs.”  In essence, USF was designed to provide subsidies to build the infrastructure and provide telephone service to high cost areas.  Over the years the USF has taxed cell and land line phone service to provide these services.  But, what most people don’t know is that USF has also been stockpiling this money, more than $4 billion.

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  • Net Neutrality - No Need for Internet Regulation

    on July 12, 2011

    On June 3, 2011 the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) wrote about the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) coordinating with supporters of net neutrality to advance the new regulation.  On Friday July 8, 2011 the FCC sent the proposed regulations to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) which begins a 30 day comment period for the new regulations.  After that 30 day time period, the new regulation will go into effect 60 days later.  Any regulation of the Internet is unnecessary and potentially expensive for taxpayers.  There are also some who believe that the FCC does not even have jurisdiction to regulate the Internet.  TPA urges all citizens to contact the Office of Management and Budget (click here) and tell them that net neutrality regulations will be harmful to consumers and taxpayers.

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  • FCC Scrutinized For Coordinating New Internet Regulations With Outside Group

    David E. Williams on June 3, 2011

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been very active lately.  And, taxpayers know that when a federal agency/commission is busy that is not good news for taxpayers or the private sector.  The FCC’s biggest obsession over the last few years has been with regulating the Internet through a concept known as “net neutrality,” which is loosely defined as a system that allows information on the Internet to move freely without regard to content.  In reality, net neutrality is a not so subtle attempt to regulate the Internet.  Battles have been waged by groups on the left and right side of the political spectrum regarding net neutrality.  In short, the folks on the left want the Internet regulated and embrace the expanding bureaucracy that will surely follow.  The folks on the right believe that the free market will bring innovation and that a light regulatory touch is all that is needed. Now there is quite compelling evidence that the FCC coordinated with pro net neutrality groups on the left in advancing the regulation.

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