CTIA 2013: Wireless Policy Hot Topics

The Wireless Policy Hot Topics Panel spent much of time talking about rural broadband and government's role in telecom regulation. Idaho Public Utilities Commissioner, Paul Kjellander, was certainly a highlight of the panel. Not  only did he have the audience in stitches, but he clearly understands the role of government.  Kjellander said:  "The role of government is to scratch where it itches; if we don't know what the problem is then we shouldn't try to fix it. [Trying to fix problems prospectively] has been the history with telecom regulations."

Kjellander said that are "states changing universal service funds to match the federal changes even thought those haven’t happened yet."  In Digital Liberty's perspective this is certainly states trying to fix a problem that does not exist.  Patience is indeed a virtue.

Kjellander went on to say that government officials should ask what is critically necessary. What is the role of the state, the fed, and industry? Whats in the best interest of consumers – that’s free market competition.  What do we mean by ubiquitous coverage and universal service, and can we really afford it?  The answer to that is no at the government level we cannot really afford it.  This isn't an instance of trying to create have and have nots its just the reality of how much investment is needed for last mile service; in some places its just not worth it.  "In Idaho we have places that are called ghost towns and theres a reason for that."

When talking abut wireless taxes, we all know that they can be pretty high – average taxes around 16/17% while other goods and services are about 7 percent.

Tennessee state representative, Joe Armstrong, made a good point when he said " if you want to increase something you subsidized it; if you want to decrease the use of something you tax it."  We certainly aren't trying to decrease wireless use.  There are a plethora of discussions abut how to get more people connected to the internet, and wireless broadband is an essential component of connecting to the internet.

Is fact, studies have shown that for every $1 in taxes on wireless services you lose $2.75 in additional uses.  That means excessive taxation on wireless service only deters use of a service that connects many people who otherwise don't have broadband access,in addition to hampering economic growth.  Wireless is the basis of an economy that continues to grow and flourish, so why would we want to hamstring it with excessively burdensome taxes that hamper innovation?