Want Cheaper, Better Internet? Limit the Local Government Shakedowns of Internet Providers

Seton Motley | Less Government | LessGovernment.org
Seton Motley | Less Government | LessGovernment.org
Oh So Many Government Pickpockets –
Picking Oh So Many Pockets

Everyone wants everything to be better, stronger, faster – and cheaper.

It’s human nature.  When we’re spending our money – we always want a better deal.

When we’re spending other peoples’ money – we don’t give a rat’s rear end about a better deal.  Price is no option – when we’re not paying the price.  We pass on the hamburger – and load up on lobster and steak.

Government – operates solely on other peoples’ money.  The only coin it can spend – is coin it takes from us via taxation.  Which is why their stewardship of all things budget – is always awful.

But wait – it can and does get oh-so-very-much worse.

How about after taxing the daylight out of us, they then mandate we spend even more of our money – on things the government mandates we give them.

Now you have but the slightest inkling of what Internet Service Providers (ISPs) face.  All the time, all over the country – from thousands of different state, county, municipal and city governments.

ISPs show up in your area – looking to spend millions or billions of dollars to build or improve their service to you.

But before they can do that – they must first play Mother May I with the government(s) in your area.

You know, the governments that are already taxing the living daylight out of ISPs.  That now create ridiculous lists of additional demands of ISPs – for the ISPs’ “right” to spend millions or billions of dollars providing you service.

It’s like very many governments going shopping – with businesses’ credit cards.

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) just filed a report with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  In which they have Appendix A – which chronicles many of the really gobsmacking demands governments make of ISPs.

The number of cities and towns making these ridiculous demands is staggering.  The wide variety of these ridiculous demands is mind-numbing.

All of which are geared by government – to find new and additional ways to extract ever more money from the ISPs.

Some of the very many items on the Absurdity Menu are:

“Some municipalities have asserted that cable operators must sign an encroachment agreement, in addition to a state-issued cable franchise….Such agreements include requirements to…relinquish facilities to the municipality upon expiration of the agreement, which is in conflict with a cable operator’s renewal rights under federal and state law.”

Did you get that?  Governments are mandating the ISPs – hand over their property to the government after a fixed period of time.  How very Venezuela of them.

“Localities in several states require the cable operator to pay transaction taxes based on the receipts it derives from the provision of services…These duplicative exactions include city business license taxes in California, local business license taxes in Missouri, local business and occupation taxes in Nebraska, and local business and occupation taxes in West Virginia….

“The City of Eugene, Oregon requires the cable operator to pay a fee of 7% of revenues and a 2% business license fee for each of the following: voice services, broadband services, and cell backhaul service, in addition to the fees already imposed on the cable franchise….

“(Several other) Oregon cities…have adopted ordinances imposing (percentage) fees on gross revenue from broadband service in addition to the fees already imposed on cable franchises.

“In California, in addition to a 5% franchise fee, cable operators pay a ‘possessory interest’ tax as imputed rent for access to the public rights-of-way. Counties generally calculated the tax by applying the franchise fee percentage (usually 5%) to cable revenue….

“In Texas,…cable operators are assessed two rights-of-way fees (one for voice and one for cable) even if a single facility is used to provision both services….

And here’s where it gets obnoxious – in a whole new way.  Where the governments mandate over and over and over again – that ISPs give these governments unlimited free service…just about everywhere of which these governments can think.

“Montgomery County, Maryland requires the cable operator to provide courtesy Basic and Expanded Service to all public buildings currently receiving courtesy service and up to three additional locations per year (there are now 898 complimentary accounts with an estimated value of $949,000 annually) and to provide courtesy Internet service to fifty locations.

“Ramsey-Washington Suburban Cable Commission, Minnesota (a community with 22,000 cable subscribers) requires the cable operator to provide courtesy Digital Starter cable service to 60 locations with no restriction on adding additional sites, as well as complimentary Internet service to 19 sites.

“In Minnesota, in addition to requirements that cable operators serve all schools (current and future, public and private, administrative buildings, maintenance and transportation buildings, vocational technical colleges, universities, etc.) and public buildings (current and future, owned and leased), free service demands have included the following:

“St. Cloud, Minnesota required complimentary service to parks, a nature center, a theater, convention center, a waste water treatment facility, an ice skating warming house, a history museum, and a regional airport;

“Red Wing, Minnesota required complimentary service to a marina and municipal theater;

“Apple Valley, Farmington, and Rosemount, Minnesota, negotiating jointly, requested, but ultimately were not provided, complimentary service to four municipal liquor stores, an aquatic center, a golf course, and a vocational technical college;

“Buffalo, Minnesota required complimentary service to a municipal liquor store; and

“The Northern Dakota County Cable Communications Commission has requested complimentary service to three golf courses, an ice arena, a municipal pool, an airport, a park activity center, a historical society and museum, a community college, and a water treatment plant.

“Rochester, New York recently demanded that the cable operator provide complimentary service to two city-owned cemeteries under a franchise provision that requires free service to all municipally-owned buildings.”

Well, the deceased will have free Internet access – so they can be well-informed when they go vote for Democrats.

“In New York City, two cable operators must provide, free of charge,…service to dozens of…sites across all five NYC boroughs.  These cable operators also must provide free service to the third party public access community organizations. A third operator in the City was required to pay grants to support City-designated educational and technological needs in an amount totaling $4 million in lieu of offering free services….

“The cities of Pasco and Richland, Washington, requested free drops and equipment for every public building, school, library, and university in their area (existing or new), without regard to whether the building is located close enough to the cable operator’s plant to be served without a costly plant extension.”

And on, and on, and ON, and….

And why do governments get so omni-directional creative in additionally fleecing ISPs?  Because of the 5% cap on Local Franchise Authorities (LFA) fees.

Governments want to charge the 5% – and then add on all sorts of these types of additional absurdities.

ISPs want the absurdities – to count towards the 5% cap.

And before you say “Good – stick it to those evil ISPs” – please keep in mind:

The more money ISPs have to spend on governments – the more they’ll have to charge you for their services.  I mean, once these governments finally allow them to provide their services to you.

The more governments impose their nonsenses – the further and further away the better, stronger, faster and cheaper Internet service you perpetually want gets.

So let’s have the 5% government shakedown cap – actually be an actual cap.

If governments want to order off the Absurdity Menu – that should be a part of the total tab.

This first appeared in Red State.

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