January 18, 2017
On January 9, 2017, Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) reintroduced The Email Privacy Act. This legislation would upgrade America’s digital privacy laws by establishing protections against warrantless searches of private emails. This legislation is needed because the Fourth Amendment’s protection of property against “unlawful searches and seizures” is constantly under siege from home intrusions to warrantless wiretapping. Lawmakers feared that similar abuses would arise in the digital domain, and passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) in 1986 to safeguard emails from wonton searches. The law, however, was written at a time when “clouds” referred only to liquid droplets and not storage for information.» Read More
January 2, 2017
The New Year has begun, and after saying goodbye to 2016, taxpayers are ready to welcome 2017. While many people resolve to shed a few pounds and break some bad habits, this year’s list of resolutions highlights all of the major issues that the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) will focus on throughout the year.
The resolution for Congress in 2017 is clear: No More Excuses. Washington (including the incoming Trump administration) have no more excuses for not getting things done for taxpayers. On a wide range of issues, including tax reform and regulatory reform, members of the House and Senate can longer make excuses for not doing the necessary work to fix some of the major problems impacting taxpayers. It is time for Congress to get to work. For more on Congress, click here.
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December 29, 2016
This article originally appeared in USA Today on December 16, 2016
In the 1990 Oscar nominated film “Field of Dreams,” Kevin Costner’s character hears a promise from above: “If you build it, he will come.” Viewers, and Costner, aren’t sure who “he” is, but it’s one of the most memorable movie lines of all time and is enough to get Costner to level his cornfield and build a ball field. That faith is enchanting in the movies, but in real life can be problematic. KentuckyWired, the Bluegrass State’s government-owned broadband network, is a great example of real life being out of tune with fantasy. Upon taking office, Gov. Matt Bevin seemed to -- wisely -- be pulling back from this project, which is now more than a year behind schedule. Now he has reversed that position and basically told taxpayers in a press conference earlier this year, “If the state builds it, we’ll find a way to pay for it.”» Read More
December 26, 2016
A version of this op-ed was recently published in the Sun Prairie Star
Across the country, public officials are continuously duped into following the siren call of government-owned broadband systems. While it is certainly tempting to score political points with constituents who initially benefit from high-speed internet, these short-term gains are invariably canceled out by long-term costs that bedevil those same constituents. That’s why city officials in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin now have an opportunity to be trendsetters. Instead of pressing ahead with its current broadband initiative, they ought to carefully consider the examples of recent history and reverse course. When a project is government-owned, this also means it is taxpayer-funded and that’s a problem when construction costs skyrocket and subscription numbers do not keep up with projections. Guess who foots the bill when that happens? Taxpayers, or course. And, with a recent vote to approve an additional $4.5 M for project expansion in Sun Prairie, it is important to look at what has happened across the country with these projects.» Read More
December 23, 2016
This article appaeared in Inside Sources on December 21, 2016
As people celebrate the holidays in different ways across the country, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance is celebrating Festivus. The holiday created by the television show “Seinfeld” challenges all the normal rules of gift giving and decorations and is essentially a day of telling people why you’re upset with them about the choices they’ve made over the last year.
Airing of Grievances
The first tradition of Festivus is “the airing of grievances.” This part of Festivus expresses the ways that taxpayers have been disappointed over the last year. While there could have been an entire book written on taxpayer grievances, here are just a few grievances that taxpayers have with bureaucrats and lawmakers.» Read More
December 22, 2016
The importance of protecting Intellectual Property (IP) is undeniable. Now, a December 6 report from the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) titled, Copyright Industries in the U.S. Economy: The 2016 Report, confirms the economic impact. According to the report, copyright industries are responsible for adding $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy as well as employing 5.5 million workers in America. These numbers (and others from the report) show indisputable proof that Congress must act to modernize the Copyright Office to foster even more growth in the copyright industry. It should come as no surprise that copyright has such a strong economic impact. The Department of Commerce released a report in October that detailed the importance of all IP to the economy. That report, titled “Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: 2016 Update,” showed that 45 million jobs are directly or indirectly tied to IP, and that IP-intensive industries accounted for $6.6 trillion in GDP value.» Read More
December 21, 2016
Below is testimony from Carl Szabo, Senior Policy Counsel with NetChoice, stating opposition to the Tennessee Department of Revenue Proposed Regulation 1320-05-01-.63; 1320-05-01-.129 – Creating a New Tax Rule. The testimony was given on December 14, 2016 and it can also be found online here.
We ask you to reject the Department of Revenue’s Regulation 1320-05-01-.63; 1320-05-01-.129 (“Rule”) as it creates costs, burdens, and new taxes on Tennessee citizens. This Rule’s problems began with its introduction and will continue through the expected legal battles. And if the Rule were to survive constitutional challenges, it would impose new burdens on your businesses and citizens.
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December 19, 2016
Finally, a government report that doesn’t fully embrace the notion of taxpayer-financed municipal broadband services. The Tennessee Advisory Group on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) recently posted a draft study (the final study is expected to be released some time early in 2017) on broadband access and investment on its website. The report outlines several municipal broadband failures and, while it does suggest that electrical cooperatives work with cities to provide broadband service directly to consumers, it strongly urges municipal leaders not to create their own taxpayer-financed networks.» Read More
December 15, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) celebrated the announcement that Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman, Tom Wheeler, will be stepping down as of January 20, 2016. This move comes after numerous calls for his departure after Donald Trump’s victory in November, and uncertainty whether Wheeler would commit to leaving. Today, that uncertainty was removed and TPA welcomed the decision.
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December 13, 2016
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Under the leadership of Chairman Tom Wheeler, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has interfered with the free market and allowing consumer-friendly initiatives to prosper. For example, while the FCC’s latest rules for net neutrality are making their way through the federal courts, the agency is using the rules to go after the private sector in terms of how they offer wireless data to their customers and what’s known as “Zero Rating.” Zero rating is a type of service that allows for providers to give “free data” for content to their customers. The way it works is that some content doesn’t get counted as part of data used in a customer’s plan with their wireless provider. In short, a company offers something for free to their customers as part of their paid service. This is a great way to get more customers and have competitors contemplate offering similar services to fill the marketplace with more options. This all seems like a win for companies and consumers. But, Chairman Wheeler disagrees and apparently would prefer people pay for something they can receive for free.
November 16, 2016
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Corporate welfare is alive and well in Indiana. Agile Networks, a hybrid wireless provider based in Ohio, secured a deal in Indiana that will allow the company to profit from leasing state government publicly-owned communications towers, fiber, and public rights of way. Agile profits from a similar deal in Ohio. That agreement allows the company to sublease parts of Ohio’s state-owned communications network to other private providers. That’s a complex way of saying: Even though Ohio taxpayers paid for their statewide network, Agile lines its pockets with the revenues from subleasing contracts. Representatives from Agile won’t reveal to Ohioans how much the company is reaping from the deal. And, the contract with the Buckeye state doesn’t require the company to release the details, which makes the deal even more suspect.
November 3, 2016
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This article appeared in Independent Journal Review on October 27, 2016
In July, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York overturned a ruling in Microsoft v. United States that forced Microsoft to hand over private email correspondence and other data to US law enforcement from servers based in Dublin, Ireland. It was a victory for privacy because the Department of Justice (DOJ) was unable to force compliance of the Stored Communications Act. But last week, the DOJ expressed interest in re-hearing Microsoft v. United States, once again jeopardizing domestic and international privacy rights. If the decision is overturned, not only will Microsoft’s security be threatened, but so too will all foreign nations that house data owned by any US-based company.
September 28, 2016
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Earlier this month, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler released an updated version of his “set-top box” proposal, which continues to rely on misguided policy and questionable authority. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) slammed the new proposal noting the widespread opposition and unprecedented amount of power the plan would give to the FCC. Now, as the FCC prepares to meet and vote to approve the new plan this week, taxpayers and consumers should continue to voice their opposition to the unnecessary new mandate. Chairman Wheeler reworked his plan because the original proposal, which would have required traditional pay-for-TV providers to make video programming available to third-party devices, failed miserably on the merits. Support was scarce from the creative community and even members of the commission who normally agree with Wheeler had reservations. The proposal was so troublesome that the Copyright Office expressed deep concerns about the deleterious effects it would have on intellectual property.
September 23, 2016
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This piece originally appeared in The Hill on September 16, 2016
Nobody likes dropped cell phone calls or slow wireless internet service. And, very few people think that the government shouldn’t take advantage of revenue opportunities that don’t involve tax collection. Well, the perfect solution is for the government to sell more wireless spectrum. Currently, the federal government is sitting on a lot of wireless spectrum that could potentially be worth billions of dollars if sold to the private sector. According to U.S. News and World Report, “The government itself currently owns 60 percent of all wireless spectrum. Much of this spectrum is of prime value, but there is little evidence that the government is using it effectively. As industry leaders describe it, it's like the government owns miles of prime beachfront property but isn't really trying to develop it.” It’s time to sell that beachfront property and let it be developed to help consumers and taxpayers.
September 9, 2016
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) slammed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler’s latest iteration of his “set-top box” proposal, which continues to rely on misguided policy and questionable authority. On Thursday, Chairman Wheeler laid out a new approach to phase out traditional set-top boxes after his original attempt to mandate the unbundling of content failed to garner support due to the threat it posed to content creators and other stakeholders in the video marketplace. The new plan the Chairman is hoping to implement would use “compulsory licensing” as a way to phase out the set-top box. This new approach presents all sorts of problems, as the compulsory licensing that Chairman Wheeler appears to have planned for would put the FCC in charge of licensing and distributing creative works, a power they have never had nor were ever intended to have. This new plan from the FCC once again threatens creators and puts copyright at great risk and threatens consumers and taxpayers.
August 26, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Recently, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) released results of a national phone survey along with a new analysis of twelve failing taxpayer-funded municipal broadband networks around the country. The phone survey showed that the vast majority of Americans are strongly opposed to government-owned internet networks. The new report titled, “THE DIRTY DOZEN: Examining the Failure of America’s Biggest & Most Infamous Taxpayer-Funded Broadband Networks” details 12 of the country’s failed Government-Owned Networks (GONs) and how taxpayers have been paying billions of dollars for the failures. Click here for poll results and here for the report.
July 28, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) released results of a national phone survey along with a new analysis of twelve failing taxpayer-funded municipal broadband networks around the country. The phone survey showed that the vast majority of Americans are strongly opposed to government-owned internet networks. The new report titled, “THE DIRTY DOZEN: Examining the Failure of America’s Biggest & Most Infamous Taxpayer-Funded Broadband Networks” details 12 of the country’s failed Government-Owned Networks (GONs) and how taxpayers have been paying billions of dollars for the failures. Click here for poll results and here for the report.
July 19, 2016
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FCC Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
It should come as no surprise that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is having a hard time selling their AllVid (set-top box) proposal. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) continues to oppose the proposal, which would require traditional pay-for-TV providers to make video programming available to third-party devices. The cost and negative impact the proposal would have on consumer choice have been well documented. Now, voices of concern continue to grow about the problems with the weakening of intellectual property in the new regulation. Last week, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and other FCC Commissioners appeared on Capitol Hill as the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee held a hearing on oversight of the agency. The set-top box rule was one of many topics that came up during the nearly five-hour hearing (which can be seen here). Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle expressed their reservations about the new FCC regulation. One critical piece of information revealed at last week’s oversight hearing was that there are concerns coming from another government agency, the Copyright Office.
June 14, 2016
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Washington, D.C.- Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit came out with their long-awaited decision regarding net neutrality. And, the news was bad for taxpayers and consumers as the District Court of Appeals upheld the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) power grab of the Internet known as Net Neutrality. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has long since warned against increased regulatory measures on the Internet noting that the Internet has thrived because government has, up until now, kept a light regulatory touch on the Internet. Quick reacting business and free market forces will keep the Internet thriving, not slow unresponsive government bureaucracies. A new regulatory regime for the Internet would stifle innovation and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in a newly created bureaucracy. In response to this decision, TPA President David Williams issued the following statement.
Click 'read more' below to see the full statement
June 7, 2016
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Cronyism continues to be a problem in Washington with federal agencies creating regulations and policies that favor one company over other companies. There is no more blatant example of this than what seems to be happening with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Google. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has consistently promulgated rules and regulations that benefit Google more than other companies in the tech industry. Chairman Wheeler came to the FCC and promised to be a fair-minded Chairman who would run the agency listening to all ideas and being open to all approaches. But, the record reflects otherwise. The relationship between Google and the Obama Administration is well documented and it goes back years. A recent report examining White House visitor logs revealed that Johanna Shelton, Google’s director of public policy, has met with administration officials 128 times since President Barack Obama took the oath of office in 2009.