End Discriminatory Wireless Taxes!

Taxes on cell phone and wireless services have skyrocketed to fund state budgets and federal subsidy programs. Today, the average consumer pays a whopping 17 percent in taxes on their wireless bill. Write your member of Congress and call for a tax time-out.

Future of Internet Freedom at Risk Over Potential American Surrender of ICANN

In March, the United States Department of Commerce released a statement, which indicated the organization would begin to relinquish its longstanding role as safe keeper of internet freedom.   If the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) surrenders this governance, Internet freedom will be at risk on a global scale.

During the December 2012 World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) convened by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), an agency of the United Nations (UN), America stated clearly that proposals, which would tax those who send data, limit free speech, and implement territorial borders around the Internet, is unacceptable. These ideas proposed at the WCIT would make it harder to communicate across borders, develop pro-consumer network management, and limit entrepreneurs' ability to manage data storage.

Title II Cheat Sheet

Title II and Universal Service Fund Fees

Reclassification of broadband as a Title II utility exposes wireline broadband consumers and wireless smart phone users to federal, state, and local Universal Service Fund fees.

  • USF fees are already collected from traditional telephone infrastructure and the voice portion cellular phone costs
  • In the fourth quarter of 2014 the USF contribution rate was 16.1% of all company revenues, which shows up as a line item on consumers bills
  • The USF rate is expected to rise to 16.3% in 2015.
  •  Categorizing broadband as a Title II utility means the 16.1% USF fee will appear on Internet bills, which had not be subject to these fees.
  • The Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) estimated that these USF fees would total $11 billion annually

Forbearance & ITFFA will not Stop USF Fees

While Chairman Wheeler speaks of forbearance,

  • The FCC Chairman’s special council for external affairs, Gigi Sohn recently commented that the claims of Title II raising taxes are “just wrong.”  However, Sohn acknowledged that questions remain as to where Universal Service fees will be applied. 
  • Free Press said because of the one-year extension of the Internet Tax Moratorium, Americans’ tax rates would increase “exactly zero” under Title II reclassification
  • USF surcharges don't go into the U.S. Treasury and are not subject to congressional spending authority, but from a consumer standpoint they are a tax. Therefore, a federal agency has defacto-taxing power without accountability to taxpayers.

Title II is based off of an 1887 law regulating railroads

  • Title II is almost a carbon copy of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 — a law regulating 19th century railroad companies.
  •  In the early 1900s language from the 1887 law was modified to apply to telegraphs and telephones.
  • Title II rules would apply these telegraph and telephone laws from the early 1900s to the broadband infrastructure – wired and wireless – granting unprecedented government control over the digital economy.

International Repercussions

  • Implementation of Title II may not only equate to taxes/fees on US Internet connections, it could also mean international taxes and regulations on data usage, video chats, emails, and video streaming.  
  • During the December 2012 United Nations World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), America opposed a European proposal, known as sender-pays
  • Sender-pays would amend existing telecommunications treaties to impose costs on popular Web sites and their network providers for the privilege of serving non-U.S. users.

§  Allowing foreign phone companies to charge global content and application providers internationally mandated fees (ultimately to be paid by all Internet consumers) with the goal of generating revenue for foreign government treasuries

§  Imposing unprecedented economic regulations of rates, terms and conditions for currently unregulated Internet traffic swapping agreements known as “peering”

As the Telecommunications Act Turns 19, Coalition Calls for an Update

As the Telecommunications Act Turns 19, 

Coalition Calls for an Update

Back to the Future II made Better Predictions 

than the 1996 Communications Act

Many of the tech marvels we enjoy were released within the past few years. They rely on the omnipresent wired and wireless broadband connections that link to the global network we have all come to depend on. Yet these miraculous pieces of technology are regulated under the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  The 1996 Act mentioned pay phones more than it mentioned the Internet!  

For the past two years Americans for Tax Reform and Digital Liberty have used twitter campaigns, #17yrsAgo and #18yrsAgo, to promote the need for a Communications Act Update.  This year, we are at it again!

  • The actual Anniversary is Sunday, February.
  • On Twitter we will be using the hashtags #19yrsago and #CommActUpdate, gearing up on Thursday the 5th and will hit our full stride Friday the 6th
  • As 2015 is the setting of the prophetic film Back the Future IIwe are bringing a DeLorean to the Hill on February 5!
  • Grover will be tweeting the DeLorean locations, so join us for a photo and see who else stops by for a photo op with the iconic time traveling vessel.
  • Katie McAuliffe, Federal Affairs Manager at Americans for Tax Reform and Executive Director of Digital Liberty will accompany the car and will be available for interviews and comments this week.


Electronic Communications Privacy Act Reform: A bipartisan initiative that will protect your rights

Electronic Communications reform has immense bipartisan support, including over 100 private organizations.   In the 113th Congress, an Electronic Communications Privacy Reform Act (ECPA) bill introduced by Rep. Yoder (R- Kan.) and Rep. Polis (D-Colo.) had 273 cosponsors.  A similar piece of legislation introduced by Sen. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Lee (R-Utah) passed the Judiciary Committee, but never made it to the floor for a vote. 

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, discusses the immense support for ECPA reform in The Washington Times:

“In terms of popular support, more than 100 privacy and consumer groups, companies and trade associations have joined the Digital Due Process Coalition, which supports ECPA reform. As of November 2013, more than 100,000 Americans signed a White House Petition requesting ECPA reform; it has yet to be acknowledged.”

Electronic Privacy Laws: Center Stage in the 114th Congress

The Email Privacy Act and its Senate Counterpart, the ECPA Amendments Act, which regulate government access to private communications, are set to play an important role early in the 114th Congress.  

On Thursday January 22, proponents of this bill, including several large tech companies, sent a letter to both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees expressing their support for passing this legislation in its original form:

“The ECPA Amendments Act would update ECPA is one key respect, making it clear that, except in emergencies or under other existing exceptions, the government must obtain a warrant in order to compel a service provider to disclose the content of emails, texts, or other private material stored by the service provider on behalf of its users.”

The ECPA Amendments Act and its House counterpart, the Email Privacy Act, would work to ensure the protection of the Fourth Amendment, as it applies to digital data. These bills clarify the need for a warrant for content as it applies to electronic information stored by a service provider.   

Net Neutrality Does Not Equal Internet Freedom

On January 20, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Energy Committee and their counterparts on the House Energy and Commerce Committee received a letter from a collection of organizations and individuals asking Congress to prevent the FCC from regulating the Internet.The letter expressed a widespread concern over the attempt made by the FCC to reclassify the internet under Title II of the Communications Act.

Internet Freedom: A Matter for Congress

Today, in a joint article for Reuters, Senator John Thune and Representative Fred Upton, expressed their support for the preservation of internet freedom.  Both members of Congress articulated the need for “unambiguous rules of the road that protect internet users and can help spur job creation and economic growth.”

While some have suggested utilizing Title II of the Communications Act to regulate the internet, this would be enormously expensive for taxpayers.  According to a Progressive Policy Institute report, “Using Title II could result in billions of dollars in higher government fees and taxes.”

Grover Norquist and Patrick Gleason wrote an article this week on the dangers of Title II Reclassification. The article explains, “This move would make broadband subject to New Deal-era regulation, and have significant consequences for U.S. taxpayers.”

In the modern age, the issues facing internet freedom are becoming increasingly vast and it is the job of the United States Congress, not a government agency, to create solutions.   Free market participants can and should engage in the policy process that has been shut down for the past few years. 

You can read Senator Thune and Representative Upton’s article here.  

The Plea for Electronic Communication Privacy Law Reform

This week, Americans for Tax Reform and Digital Liberty sent letters thanking members of Congress who cosponsored the Email Privacy Act during the 113th Congress.  Representatives Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced H.R. 1852 in 2013. 

H.R. 1852 had bipartisan support; 272 members so-sponsored the bill, but it never came to the floor for a vote.

The Email Privacy Act aims to ensure the rights guaranteed to the American people under the Fourth Amendment extend to email and cloud documents.  Updating electronic privacy laws has growing popular and political backing. 

Digital Liberty supports the Email Privacy Act and urges members of Congress to act on this important issue during the 114thCongress. 

You can read the letter here.