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.

Taxation Without Representation; The Collateral Damage of Crony Capitalism

For several years now, big box retailers have been pushing Congress to implement sales taxes on the interstate transactions that the Supreme Court has ruled off-limits baring legislation..  While these big box stores claim to be after “parity”, the end result would be punitive to small mom-and-pop retailers that are less well equipped to navigate the considerable red tape and audit threats from thousands of taxing jurisdictions around the country.

The irony is that the big box stores have wrapped themselves in the mantle of “main street” and neglect to mention that the real impetus for the federal institution of online sales taxes comes almost exclusively from the biggest retailers in the country.  Ten of the biggest ten retailers in the country are pressing for interstate sales tax legislation, and even eight of the top ten internet retailers are pushing for taxation.

Protecting Email Privacy Rights

In an article from Iowa newspaper, The Gazette, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist and Involta Founder and CEO Bruce Lehrman discuss email privacy rights, ECPA reform, and its opposition by the SEC and The FTC.

“The SEC and FTC oppose this urgently needed reform, and credit is due Senator Grassley for bringing representatives of both agencies before the committee to explain their position. The witnesses acknowledged their agencies believed they had under ECPA the authority to order warrantless searches. And they insisted that authority was essential to their ability to investigate ‘fraud and other unlawful conduct.’ And yet neither witness could provide an example when their agencies had used that authority to help solve a case. Not a single one. And this in a year the SEC claims has seen a record number of successful investigations.”

New Report Reveals Wireless Tax Increase

A new report published by the Tax Foundation and Scott Mackey reveals the wireless tax has increased another percent in the last year. At 18 percent, the tax has reached an all-time high and is nearly two and a half times greater than the general sales.

“To Promote the Progress of Science and the Useful Arts” on the Internet

“The Constitutional Foundations of Intellectual Property” coauthored by Randolph J. May and Seth Cooper could not have been published at a more critical time. As May and Cooper allude to in their introduction, the coming of the digital age has ushered in the potential for unprecedented disregard for intellectual property. Anti-IP crusaders are fortifying themselves behind their battering ram slogan “information wants to free,” as they seek to shatter one of the most important pillars of US society. 

A Beginner’s Guide to Reducing Your Internet Footprint: Part 1 – Internet Browsing

As a beginner to safer internet browsing and computer usage in general, I hope to spread awareness of ways to make yourself harder to track to those who would like to use your information without your permission. There is no fail-safe method to keeping yourself safe from every threat online, but there are measures that even the average computer user can take to make it much harder for peeping eyes to find them.

In this instalment of the guide I want to introduce ways to specifically make your internet browsing experience safer. To be clear, I am not an internet security expert, but I want to relay some of what I have found from actual experts.

Merger Reviews and the "Public Interest" Standard

As we have seen from the past, there are a number of issues that continue to surround the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) use of the “public interest” standard while reviewing merger conditions related to the Communications Act. The FCC has certain reviewing powers when it comes to dealing with these mergers within the communications industry, separate from those of both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and The Federal trade commission (FTC). However their claim to serve the public interest has been challenged over the years due to inconsistencies in this policy on behalf of the FCC.

3 Myths of Zero Rating and Net Neutrality

Katie McAuliffe and Tim Wilt emphasize the importance of understanding the difference between zero-rating programs and sponsored data.  Both are experiments in connecting more people to the wealth of information and entertainment on the Internet.  The intention of this paper is to clarify the difference between these two programs, and show that they are not in conflict with the goals of net neutrality.

Below, please find an excerpt of the paper, and click here to access the paper in full.

Zero Rating versus Sponsored Data

The conflict surrounding zero-rating programs is largely a case of disordered priorities. The activists for Net Neutrality have elevated their cause over and above the pursuit of universal connectivity. The reality however, is that the two initiatives are mutually dependent. The Internet cannot be Neutral so long as 2/3rds of the world is unable to access it, yet this access can only be counted as such if it means individuals have an equally robust online experience.   

The Net Neutrality activists are undermining the drive for universal connectivity. These groups react with a misplaced, and likely reflexive, aversion to free-market solutions to socio-economic problems. Their campaign against zero-rating programs perpetuates three especially destructive and misinformed myths. This paper seeks to quell these fears, and bring the online community together in the charitable pursuit of connecting the world.

The Internet services offered by zero-rating programs were never intended to replace the full Internet available to those able to pay for access. Instead they act as both a method for increasing digital literacy across the globe as well as a stepping-stone on the path to universal connectivity.

Zero-rating programs are agreements between Internet service providers (ISPs) and content providers that create free Internet access for individuals who would otherwise be unable to get online. Zero-Rating programs like Facebook’s Internet.org, Wikipedia Zero, Twitter Access, and Google Free Zone, are charitable programs aimed at getting the two-thirds of the world’s population, who currently cannot access the Internet, online.

These zero-rating programs are not to be confused with “sponsored-data” programs. With zero-rating, the mobile carrier chooses to not count participating services and content against a user’s data plan and the carrier does not receive payment for the data transfer from any party. With sponsored data, content providers or content services providers pay mobile carriers to deliver their content to consumers, and the content does not count against a consumer’s data plan.  Sponsored data would be content that includes a commercial for the user to watch, like television, or direct payment from the content provider to the carrier possibly at a discounted rate. One example is Mozilla’s partnership with Grameenphone that provides a ”Wow Box” option on Mozilla phones allowing consumers to watch advertisements in exchange for free data.

To reiterate, while both programs provide consumers access to some data for no charge, zero-rating means the mobile carrier does not receive any payment for a consumer’s use of content.  The viewing content does not count against a consumer’s data plan and the mobile carrier is not paid for the data transfer:  zero rates paid, hence the name zero-rating.  Data is sponsored when the content provider pays the mobile carrier to deliver free content.  This is not true zero rating.  This is termed sponsored data.

Carriers and content providers are coming up with many different ways to bring consumers either zero-rated or sponsored data, and before anyone begins sounding the alarm, companies should be able to test these innovative models.  Many technologists will agree, allowing an experimenter the opportunity to fail is where we often learn the most.  Killing experimental business models through government action rather than consumer action is detrimental to innovation.  

Click here for the full PDF



Cook County Residents to be Taxed on More Forms of Amusement

The Cook County Board of Commissioners have proposed legislation that would extend more of its amusement tax to other various forms of entertainment. The extended legislation would now include specific rules on resale of tickets in any form, a tax on activities such as bowling, billiard games, golf, other sports activities, and any “similar activities”. It would also tax every form of television.