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Category: Telecommunications



  • Net Neutrality Regulations Spur Lawsuits and a Fear of a Tax Increase

    Michi Iljazi on April 20, 2015

    wheeler

    Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted along party lines to approve a net neutrality plan proposed by Chairman Tom Wheeler that was more than 300 pages long.  The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) was quick to criticize the proposal as completely antithetical to the innovative nature that has been a hallmark of the Internet for nearly two decades. Even though the rules have been published in the Federal Register and are set to  take effect on June 12, 2015, there is a  long road ahead and the battle over the future of the regulation is still far from being resolved. As expected, the FCC decision sparked a number of lawsuits questioning the FCC’s authority to regulate the Internet under Title II (click here to read a previous blog posting on Title II). Currently, a total of seven legal actions have been taken against the FCC and their plans for net neutrality. This is not the first time the FCC has been challenged on net neutrality rules in the courts. Last year the FCC lost in Federal Appeals Court against Verizon in which the court held the FCC exceeded their authority with new rules on internet providers.

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  • Florida Governor Rick Scott Seeks Relief for Wireless Consumers

    Michi Iljazi on March 2, 2015

    cell

    A number of states around the country have begun legislative work for the calendar year.  While each state has different priorities as well as different challenges, what they have in common is that taxpayers are in need of serious relief.  One state where taxpayers could soon see some good news is Florida, where a new proposal to cut taxes has emerged that could benefit wireless consumers statewide who are feeling the pain of high excise taxes on their cell phone bill. Sunshine State Governor Rick Scott is pushing a massive tax cut that will include a lowering of the state’s wireless tax rate for all cell phone users. Wireless consumers are burdened every month with a slew of taxes that provide little explanation but heavy weight to their bill. Last October, a report from the Tax Foundation found that the average taxes on wireless combining state/federal/local are just over 17 percent.  The report also showed the size and scale of just how many individuals were impacted by wireless taxes noting that 90 percent of adult Americans have a cellphone, and 58 percent of adult Americans have a smartphone. Those in Florida who are a part of that overall 90 percent are now faced with the real possibility that rates could be lowered on that monthly bill, and this is welcome news that Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) supports.

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  • TPA President David Williams: FCC Action Would Harm Local Taxpayers

    Michi Iljazi on February 24, 2015

    broad

    TPA PRESIDENT DAVID WLLIAMS: FCC ACTION WOULD HARM LOCAL TAXPAYERS
    Taxpayers Protection Alliance leader discusses the high-cost of government-owned broadband ahead of FCC decision

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) President David Williams released the following statement today in advance of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote whether to allow two government-owned broadband networks to expand beyond their state-mandated boundaries: “FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will ask his fellow commissioners on Thursday to vote on Chattanooga, Tenn.’s and Wilson, N.C.’s petitions to override municipal broadband laws in their respective states. For the fiscal well being of taxpayers, and in the interest of protecting states’ rights, TPA urges Wheeler’s colleagues to uphold these state laws in Chattanooga and Wilson, which have placed prudent restrictions on government-owned broadband networks."

    Click 'read more' below to see the full statement

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  • Telecom and Technology Offer Hopes for Positive Congressional Reform in 2015

    David Williams and Michi Iljazi on January 20, 2015

    obamamitch

    This article originally appeared in Roll Call January 20, 2014

    On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama will give his sixth State of the Union Address and there is no doubt that the speech will contain familiar themes on policy initiatives his administration has long championed. Perhaps chief among them though is telecommunications policy, an area that Congress and the president must address if the country is to remain competitive around the world. For starters, it has been almost 20 years since the Communications Act has been updated. Coincidentally, the last time the Act was updated, there was a Democrat in the White House and a GOP-controlled Congress. Much has changed technologically in the last two decades, and with the massive change in virtually every facet of telecommunications, it is crucial to make sure that innovation can still be a key ingredient.

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  • TPA's New Year's Resolutions for 2015!

    David Williams and Michi Iljazi on December 31, 2014

    nye

    The New Year is upon us and it’s time for millions of Americans to make their resolutions for the New Year.  Many folks vow to lose weight by eating a healthier diet and going to the gym.  In a twist on that time-honored tradition, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) is urging Congress to get it’s fiscal health back in shape.  We put together a list of our own resolutions for Washington and those politicians who will soon be returning for a new Congressional session.

    Click 'read more' below to see the full list of 2015 New Years resolutions!

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  • Moving Closer to a Communications Act Update as Senate Commerce Committee Advances Legislation

    Michi Iljazi on October 2, 2014

    starva

    The more technology advances, the more antiquated our current telecommunications laws become.  The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has advocated reforming many of the country’s outdated communications laws to better serve taxpayers and consumers. Over the past year we have seen some slight, but meaningful, progress on updating the Communications Act.  Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) deserve credit for beginning this process in the House and we hope that they will introduce, and eventually pass, a bill that modernizes our Nation’s telecom laws. Much of that progress is due to a fundamental and bipartisan understanding that the marketplace has changed greatly since 1996 and legislation is needed in order to catch up with today’s Internet economy. A recent move in Congress, in a rare show of progress, moved the country closer to updating our communications laws. Just a few weeks ago the Senate advanced the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA), which contains key components for new age communications rules.

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  • TPA Submits Comments on Spectrum & Updating the Communications Act

    David Williams & Michi Iljazi on April 24, 2014

    The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) is very interested and concerned as to how Congress will be looking to make changes regarding communications policy and how those changes will impact the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the issue of government-owned spectrum. There is no doubt that taxpayers, consumers, and businesses will be impacted by how the committee, Congress, and the FCC proceed. That being said, it is important to take into account where all stakeholders stand on these debates.   TPA is a 501 (c)(4) organization that represents the interests of millions of American taxpayers across the country and as such we feel compelled to submit comments that expressly states recommendations to two questions posed in the recent white paper issued by the committee regarding these issues.

    To read the full comment, click 'read more' below » Read More
  • TPA Joins Coalition Urging House & Senate to Allow Free Market Process to Function in Time Warner/Comcast Deal

    Michi Iljazi on April 8, 2014

    Earlier this year, a deal between Time Warner and Comcast was announced that would provide for the two companies to join, the transaction has been a great deal of discussion not just in the television industry, but also amongst lawmakers in Washington, DC. As for any deal of this signifigance, there will be review and oversight by Congressional Committees with the proper jurisdiction. TPA understands that a process must play out for this type of transaction, but there must also be an allowance of commercial enterprises to conduct themselves as they see fit within full cooperation of legal guidelines and standards already in place. With that in mind, TPA joined with Americans for Tax Reform, American Commitment, Center for Individual Freedom, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Digital Liberty, Discovery Institute, Frontiers of Freedom, Institute for Policy Innovation, and National Taxpayers Union in sending these letters to Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate Judiciary committees expressing the view that this deal represents an opportunity for consumers to benefit, and there should be no reason for not allowing the free market to operate. 

    Click 'read more' below to see the text of the letters » Read More
  • New Study Exposes Flaws with Municipal Broadband

    Michi Iljazi on February 5, 2014

    chat
    Chattanooga, TN (courtesy, Wikimedia)

    There is no shortage of things that government thinks it can do better than the private sector and there’s no limit to what government will spend taxpayer dollars on as keenly demonstrated on a regular basis in Washington, D.C. One of the more egregious examples of this regularly occurring phenomenon is the funding of municipal broadband networks. These government-backed operations have been shown to be a waste of valuable taxpayer money with systems that have quality far less comparable to the same work provided by the private sector. A recent study by George S. Ford, PhD, of the Phoenix Center took a close look at these municipal broadband networks and found evidence to suggest that one of the supposed “benefits” of these government programs doesn’t actually exist. The study from Dr. Ford is a direct response to an earlier study that claimed municipal broadband services offered a better deal on the so-called “bundled packages” as compared with private companies. Dr. Ford found the study was comparing plans that weren’t alike and when he made the adjustments, both the public and private sector offered the similar plans at similar prices. And, another difference in price is that taxpayer-funded networks cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars while the private sector networks have ZERO cost to taxpayers. Municipal broadband networks are not only using taxpayer dollars to try and sell something for the same price as a private company, they’re actually selling a less desirable product overall. The New York Times published an article about Chattanooga’s EPB in an article titled “Fast Internet Is Chattanooga’s New Locomotive.” The New York Times painted a picture of a program that boasts some of the fastest Internet speeds in the world, right in rural America. TPA has researched EPB and the facts don’t support the claims by The New York Times (read here). The biggest problem with EPB is that there’s not enough people that use the service to warrant a taxpayer-funded program that remains years after it was first introduced. Most consumers in the city aren’t using (or will probably never use) the gigabit service so there is no reason why taxpayers should be funding the EPB after it has been around for four years and still isn’t providing a unique service in high-demand.


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  • STATEMENT: TPA Praises Federal Appeals Court Ruling Striking Down Net Neutrality

    Michi Iljazi on January 14, 2014

    ALEXANDRIA, VA – Today, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down net neutrality saying that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) exceeded its authority by banning Internet providers from treating traffic differently based on where the traffic was coming from.  According to the Court: “Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such.”This is a major victory for the free market and those who believe that net neutrality would lead to a government takeover of the Internet. 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.

    To read the full release, click 'read more' below'

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  • TPA's New Year's Resolutions for 2014

    David Williams & Michi Iljazi on December 31, 2013

    nye

    Every New Year millions of Americans resolve to change their ways and improve their lives by making New Year’s resolutions such as losing weight or changing their behavior to live a healthier lifestyle.  In the spirit of those resolutions, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) urges Congress and the whole federal government to resolve to go on a fiscal diet and change their wasteful spending and regulatory habits.  And, we will be following up on each and every one of these issues (and more) in 2014. The list TPA put together includes a wide range of issues that lawmakers have been involved with and the need for action on many of these is more than obivious. The issues include: Telecommunications/Technology, Defense, Taxes, Energy, and Wasteful Spending.

    Click 'read more' below to see the full list of TPA's New Years Resolutions for 2014!

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  • TPA's New Years Resolutions for 2014

    David Williams & Michi Iljazi on December 27, 2013

    new years

    Every New Year millions of Americans resolve to change their ways and improve their lives by making New Year’s resolutions such as losing weight or changing their behavior to live a healthier lifestyle.  In the spirit of those resolutions, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) urges Congress and the whole federal government to resolve to go on a fiscal diet and change their wasteful spending and regulatory habits.  And, we will be following up on each and every one of these issues (and more) in 2014. The list TPA put together includes a wide range of issues that lawmakers have been involved with and the need for action on many of these is more than obivious. The issues include: Telecommunications/Technology, Defense, Taxes, Energy, and Wasteful Spending.

    Click 'read more' below to see the full list of TPA's New Years Resolutions for 2014!

     

    » Read More
  • In On Going Smart Phone Battle, Government Holds Most Important Card

    Michi Iljazi on August 7, 2013

    iPhone

    The smart phone battle is heating up in preparation for a major marketing blitz from four companies as they see who can outsell each other with their new smart phones.  According to uSwitch.com, “In recent weeks we’ve seen endless gossip about the iPhone 5S and budget iPhone 5C. On top of that, there’s also been plenty of speculation around HTC’s One Max phablet, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 and the now-official Moto X.  The next few weeks should see rumours about all these devices reach fever pitch, culminating in their launch either at Berlin’s IFA trade show, which starts on September 6th, or, in Apple’s case, at a special event later in the month.”  What many consumers may not realize is that even if they buy the most advanced (and cool) smartphone, the government, specifically the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), holds the trump card, wireless spectrum, in being able to enjoy the smart phone to its best ability. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been a key advocate of allowing the release of as much government held spectrum as is possible without endangering any abilities of the federal, state, and local agencies to their job. Currently, it is estimated that the amount of spectrum the government has is nearly 60% of what is available and this is something that has been the subject of Congressional inquiries over the last several months.  The sale of this spectrum could bring in $20 billion.
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  • TPA Urges Immediate Action on the Senate’s Bipartisan Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act of 2013

    Michi Iljazi on July 26, 2013

    phone

    The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been diligent in following activity in Congress dealing with internet taxation issues and there have multiple pieces of legislation that have caught our attention including the Marketplace Fairness Act in the Senate, which TPA opposes as it would dismantle proper limits on state tax collection authority while causing serious damage to electronic and interstate commerce. There is now good news on the fight against internet taxation as yesterday the Senate introduced a new bipartisan legislation in the Digital Goods & Services Tax Fairness Act of 2013, which would help protect consumers against a barrage of taxes levied on “digital goods and services on the Web, including downloads of TV shows, movies and apps as online purchases become more mobile.” The bill is authored by Senate Finance Committee members Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) and this is not the first time the due has attempted to bring about this type of legislation back in 2011. TPA is pleased to see that they have decided to take similar action this year, especially after the Marketplace Fairness Act  passed in the Senate.

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  • Report: Billions Wasted Annually On Federal Phone Subsidies

    Michi Iljazi on July 10, 2013

    Maui
    The coast of Maui, HI (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

    Everyone remembers the story last fall of the infamous ‘Obama Phones’ and how it was yet another example of government waste gone wild. Individuals nationwide were given subsidized cell phones costing taxpayers more than $2 billion dollars, and what was worse was the revelation that some individuals taking advantage of the program were in turn selling the phones to make a profit. Now, in a stunning revelation, a study to be released later today (July 10) by Thomas Hazlett, a George Mason University Professor and former chief economist at the FCC, and Scott J. Wallsten, vice president for research and senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute and senior fellow at the Georgetown University Center for Business and Public Policy, will show that the Federal Communications Commission has thrown away more than $60 billion in the last fifteen years on service extending phone subsidies. The program not only billed these subsidies at a high cost but the service only went to one-half of one percent of total U.S. households.

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  • Tennessee Telephone Pole Dancing

    David Williams on March 1, 2013

    Telephone poles

    Today (March 1) the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) sent a letter to members of  the Tennessee House and Senate urging them to vote against a bill that according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press “would allow Tennessee's electric cooperatives and government-owned utilities to charge an exorbitant amount for cable and telecommunications companies to use electric companies' utility poles.”  This legislation would stifle Internet and phone service deployment and ultimately hurt consumers. The Tennessee-based Freedom to Connect states that, “Attachment rates are sky rocketing. In fact, in Tennessee public power companies and co-ops charge rates that are among the highest in the entire nation – rates averaging $17 per pole attachment. Some Tennessee power companies are charging as much as $30 per attachment, nearly 300% higher than the national cooperative average of $10.38 and more than 400% higher than the rates charged by investor owned utilities.  The House and Senate bills would force providers to pay millions in additional pole fees, which in turn would mean phone and Internet providers would have to raise rates.  This is bad for the free market and bad for consumers.

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  • Another Questionable Government Owned Network

    David Williams on January 11, 2013

    Cable tv

    (TPA would like to apologize for anybody who is trying to read this blog posting on a government owned/taxpayer subsidized broadband network that is taking forever to download) Taxpayers understand the need to fund essential government services like public safety and transportation.  What taxpayers don’t understand is when the government ventures into areas that they have literally have no business being a part of.  The failure of government owned cable television/broadband networks across the country have reminded taxpayers of the proper role of government and that taxpayer funded cable television/broadband is NOT an essential function of government.  The most recent example of this failed multitasking is with a cable television/broadband company in Groton Connecticut. As the Groton Patch newspaper reported, “Groton City borrowed $34.5 million to build an independent cable company to give viewers choice. Last month, it sold Thames Valley Communications for $150,000 to the only taker.”  The failure of this (or any other) company is bad news but this fiscal disaster is compounded by the fact that this company was taxpayer subsidized and the collapse could have been entirely avoided.  At the time the idea for a new cable company was floated people in the Groton area were already served by established cable providers like Comcast, with AT&T nipping at Comcast’s heels by planning to serve Groton.  With satellite service, this would have given Groton residents plenty of options without using taxpayer dollars.

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  • New Study Shows that Wireless Taxes Take Bigger Bite

    David Williams on November 21, 2012

    Like the inch worm that travels miles by merely lurching along inch by inch so too do wireless taxes continue to creep up bit by little bit. In the same way as the inch worm, these taxes are often just a small amount here and a little bit there, but after a while those “little bits” add up to quite the hit on your bottom line.  Before you know it, the tax burden coming from federal/state/local wireless taxes and fees take more and more of your money, meaning you’re left with less and less to spend on other goods and services.    A new study by Scott Mackey of KSE Partners does a great job of putting into perspective just how much the steadily increasing wireless taxes and fees burden you and your family, the American consumer. For example, the study found that the average American now pays more than 17 percent in monthly wireless taxes and fees - up from an average of 16.3 percent in 2010.  This breaks down to a little over a 5 percent increase in taxes in just two years.  If rates continue to rise at these speeds, the comparison to an inch worm won’t work.  A road runner, unfortunately, may provide a more fitting description.

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  • Congress needs to get the FM Chip off Our Shoulders

    David Williams on June 19, 2012

    It’s becoming quite the “in” thing in Washington for industries to request a government carve out once their product is no longer “in” – as far as consumer purchasing trends go.  Enter the broadcasters.   This group, like many before it, is imploring Congress to create a mandate.  In this case, the mandate will force all mobile devices to include FM chips. With fewer and fewer radios purchased, broadcasters have good reason for concern about the future prospects of their product. Thanks to the technological advances of services like Internet radio and online purchasing and downloading of music, consumers have new, more convenient options to allow them to hear their favorite tunes on their terms. 

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  • Coalition Urges Stricter Oversight of USDA Broadband Program

    on May 22, 2012

    Today, a coalition of taxpayer and free market groups sent a letter (read letter here) to the Senate as they complete work on the reauthorization of the Farm Bill.  The letter urges stricter oversight of the Rural Utilities Service’s (RUS) Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program, which was established by Congress as part of the 2002 Farm Bill.  Its primary goal is to provide loans to help bring Internet broadband service to unserved rural communities, which are generally defined as communities with populations of less than 20,000.  RUS has had a history of approving loans to companies who build broadband systems in areas that are already served.  And, the areas where these companies build are often already served by multiple private broadband providers.  According to a report by the USDA on April 23, 2012, “We found that RUS had not maintained its focus on rural communities most in need of Federal assistance. This is largely because its definition of ‘rural area,’ although within the statutory guidelines, was too broad to distinguish between suburban and rural communities. As a result, RUS issued over $103.4 million in loans to 64 communities near large cities.” 

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