Report: Net Neutrality Could Result In Higher Broadband Fees For Consumers

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Newly implemented Internet regulations could impose a tax increase on broadband providers, resulting in higher internet prices for consumers.

The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that a fee funding the Universal Service Fund (USF), a program established to subsidize telephone service in low-income and rural areas, could not only appear on telephone bills–but broadband bills too. The USF raised $8.8 billion in 2014. This is how the fund works, as described by The LA Times: “For phone service, telecom firms pass the fees directly to their customers, with the average household paying about $3 a month.”

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website, the USF was initially established to bring “telephone service to low-income households and high-cost areas.” The Telecommunications Act of 1996 expanded that definition to include “among other things rural health care providers and eligible schools and libraries.”

The fund is overseen by a board comprised of FCC commissioners, state utility commissioners, and a consumer advocate representative. As The LA Times noted, the implementation of the USF to broadband has been delayed until this board makes its decision on the matter, which should happen in the coming weeks.

“I think it is incorrect… to say anything in what we have done will lead to an increase in [USF] fee contributions,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat, recently told House members.

But Commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican, strongly disagrees. “The federal government is sure to tap this new revenue stream soon to spend more of consumers’ hard-earned dollars,” cautioned Pai. “So when it comes to broadband, read my lips: More new taxes are coming. It’s just a matter of when.”

In February, the FCC approved net neutrality along a 3-2 party line vote to treat the Internet like a utility rather than an information service, allowing the commission to exercise sweeping oversight. Trade organization USTelecom and Texas-based Alamo Broadband filed suit in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. last month challenging the regulations.

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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

FCC Commissioners Warn ‘Net Neutrality’ Sets Stage for New Internet Taxes

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Two commissioners, who dissented from the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to adopt ‘net neutrality’ regulations, warn that the Internet’s new status as a public utility will lead to new Internet taxes. The vote to impose these new regulations fell along party lines–with the three Democrat commissioners, including the chairman, voting for the change and the two Republican commissioners voting against it. The FCC released its Net Neutrality Order Thursday.

Republican commissioner Ajit Pai wrote in his dissent:

The Internet has become a powerful force for freedom. So it is sad to witness the FCC’s unprecedented attempt to replace that freedom with government control….This Order imposes intrusive government regulations that won’t work to solve a problem that doesn’t exist using legal authority the FCC doesn’t have.

Pai added that both Democrats and Republicans, with the passage of the “Telecommunications Act of 1996, enshrined the principle that the Internet should be ‘vibrant and competitive free market . . . unfettered by Federal or State regulation.’” And, he continued, every chairman, Republican or Democrat, since has allowed the internet to grow free from “utility-style regulation.”

Fellow Republican commissioner Michael O’Rielly states that re-classifying the Internet as a public utility is “a monumental and unlawful power grab.”

Both commissioners agree that this re-classification as a “Title II utility,” putting them in the same category as cell phone providers, will ultimately mean new internet taxes being imposed.

Democrat FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler counters that the regulations specifically do not impose a new tax. The FCC went so far as to release a report titled “Open Internet Order: Separating  Fact from Fiction,” which states that “Nothing in the Order imposes or authorizes new taxes or fees.”

However, Pai and O’Rielly, in their dissents, write that with the re-classification of the Internet, providers will be subject to the Universal Service contributions, just like other communications companies. They both find it disingenuous to hide behind the notion that the new fees will not be a direct tax on consumers simply because they pass through the Internet providers.

To this point, the commission simply notes in its Fact from Fiction document: “With respect to Universal Service, the Order does not impose mandatory contribution assessments, but simply allows a current, separate proceeding on how to reform universal service contributions to proceed.” In other words: the fee is coming; we just won’t decide what it should be now.

Pai further highlights that the new categorization as a utility means state and local government will now be able to tax Internet providers at utility company rates, which again will be passed on to the consumer.

The FCC “net neutrality” order does not directly impose new Internet taxes at this time…true, but it opens the door for new ones almost certain to come down the road.

Some Internet providers are expected to appeal the FCC ruling in federal court.

h/t: CNSNews.com

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Cyber Security Proposals Threaten Privacy

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In the name of fighting against cyber attacks, Barack Obama wants to change the rules that protect your personal data. You see, the real motherlode of data on Americans currently sits in private hands.

But Obama wants to move the data into the claws of law enforcement agencies.

The goal is to have private sector companies give even more information to the government, in exchange for protection against lawsuits for the misuse of data.

It’s a beneficial deal for the companies and the government, but what this deal implies for the consumer is downright frightening…

The leading privacy advocates were aghast at Obama’s latest moves against online privacy.

In a statement criticizing the Obama proposal, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said: “Introducing information-sharing proposals with broad liability protections, increasing penalties under the already-draconian Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and potentially decreasing the protections granted to consumers under state data breach law are both unnecessary and unwelcomed. The status quo of overweening national security and law enforcement secrecy means that expanded information-sharing poses a serious risk of transferring more personal information to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”

The False Solution for a True Problem

Cyber security is a real problem, but the biggest threats are outside the country. Hackers from Russia and China are threatening private firms and public networks via the internet. Instead of beefing up security against these threats, the Obama team wants to broadly collect more data on generally law-abiding American citizens.

In the internet world, this is akin to having the TSA search your 85-year-old grandma at the airport. The focus is all wrong.

If you clearly analyze the myriad proposals affecting the internet from the Obama administration, they all have one common denominator: they give the federal government more control over private activity and citizens.

Another frightening proposal is pending at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), one that would declare data networks to be public utilities. Reason being, once again, to give the government (in this case, the FCC) dramatically more power over internet providers.

Adding insult to injury, a third proposal uses the FCC to strike down laws in the states that prohibit government agencies from building broadband networks to compete against private firms. Obama and his team love the idea of socializing the internet by putting networks in the hands of local governments.

Bottom line: Should these three proposals pass, they’ll dramatically change the way the internet works. Government as the guardian of your private data? Check. Government as regulator of all private internet providers? Check. And finally, the government actually providing your internet access.

A government in control of all cyber space is slowly taking shape. Consider yourself warned.

 

This commentary originally appeared at WallStreetDaily.com and is reprinted here with permission.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Why Is Obama’s Administration Chilling Free Speech Yet Again?

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Earlier this week, the federal government’s National Science Foundation, an entity created to encourage the study of science — encouragement that it achieves by awarding grants to scholars and universities — announced that it had awarded a grant to study what people say about themselves and others in social media. The NSF dubbed the project Truthy, a reference to comedian Stephen Colbert’s invention and hilarious use of the word “truthiness.”

The reference to Colbert is cute, and he is a very funny guy; but when the feds get into the business of monitoring speech, it is surely no joke–it is a nightmare. It is part of the Obama administration’s persistent efforts to monitor communication and scrutinize the expressions of opinions it hates and fears.

We already know the National Security Agency has the digital versions of all telephone conversations and emails sent to, from, or within the U.S. since 2005. Edward Snowden’s revelations of all this are credible and substantiated, and the government’s denials are weak and unavailing — so weak and unavailing that many NSA agents disbelieve them.

But the government’s unbridled passion to monitor us has become insatiable. Just two months ago, the Federal Communications Commission, which licenses broadcasters, threatened to place federal agents in cable television newsrooms so they can see how stories are generated and produced. The FCC doesn’t even regulate cable; yet it threatened to enhance its own authority by monitoring cable companies from the inside.

What’s going on here?

What’s going on here, and has been going on since President Obama took office in January 2009, is a government with little or no fidelity to basic constitutional norms. There is no defense under the Constitution to any aspect of the government’s — federal, state, regional, local, or hybrid; or any entity owned or controlled by any government; or any entity that exercises the government’s coercive powers or spends or receives its money — monitoring of the expressive behavior of anyone in the U.S., not in a newsroom, on social media, or anywhere else.

The NSF’s stated purpose of the Truthy squad is to look for errors in speech, particularly errors that fuel hatred or political extremes. This monitoring — this so-called search for error — is totalitarian and directly contradicts well-grounded Supreme Court jurisprudence, for several reasons.

First, for the government to gather information — public or private — on any person, the Constitution requires that the government have “articulable suspicion” about that person. Articulable suspicion is a mature and objective reason to believe that the person has engaged in criminal behavior. Without that level of articulable belief, the government is powerless to scrutinize anyone for any reason.

The articulable suspicion threshold is vital to assure that people in America have the presumption of liberty and are free to choose their behavior unimpeded or threatened by the government. The feds cannot cast a net into the marketplace of ideas and challenge what it brings in. Were they able to do so, the constitutional protections for free expression and the primacy of liberty would be meaningless.

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

These Clowns Want The Feds To Make You Pay For Free TV

This coming April 22, the Supreme Court is going to hear a case which will threaten to leave the smell of the barnyard in its august chambers due to the fact that the plaintiffs have plenty of experience in spreading manure around.

The case is styled “AMERICAN BROADCASTING COMPANIES, INC.;DISNEY ENTERPRISES, INC.;CBSBROADCASTING INC.; CBSSTUDIOS INC.; NBCUNIVERSAL MEDIA,LLC; NBCSTUDIOS,LLC; UNIVERSAL NETWORK TELEVISION,LLC; TELEMUNDO NETWORK GROUP LLC;WNJU–TV BROADCASTING LLC;WNET;THIRTEENPRODUCTIONS, LLC;FOX TELEVISION STATIONS, INC.;TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION;WPIX,LLC; UNIVISION TELEVISION GROUP, INC.;THE UNIVISION NETWORK LIMITED PARTNERSHIP; AND PUBLIC BROADCASTING SERVICE; vs. AEREO, INC., F/K/A BAMBOOM LABS, INC.

This is the biggest group of manure spreaders in the world against a little company that had the temerity to develop a way to receive, over the air, FREE, ADVERTISER SUPPORTED programming and let you see it on your iPad or smartphone for about $8 a month.

And they want the Federal Government to stop it.

Now I need to be clear here.

We’re not talking about ESPN or Fox News or CNN or any other pure cable channel.

We’re talking about companies that went, hats in hand, to the Federal Communications Commission, applied for and received licenses to broadcast “in the public interest, convenience and necessity” and, as compensation for doing that, sell advertising in their copyrighted programs they broadcast for free. (All except for PBS and WNET, which use fundraising appeals and Government money.)

For many years, this was a tremendous business. It still is.

The only slight flaw was the fact that in many places, even broadcasting from the tallest towers around, some people couldn’t get the signals.

So, back in the 60s, something called Community Antenna Television was born, which is exactly what the name says.

People paid someone to put up a master antenna and run a cable to their house so they could get a good signal without putting up their own antenna.

That morphed into the cable television business when the CATV operators realized they could put their own signals on that cable and charge more for it.

And, one day, America woke up and found out it was paying something like $100 a month to watch TV—including the free local channels.

Enter the internet and Aereo.

Appropriately-named Bamboom Labs came up with an interesting idea.  Why not have a little antenna farm and, instead of distributing the signal on an analog cable, use the internet to distribute those free signals?

Why not indeed.

Well, the aforementioned manure spreaders—which it should, again, be noted include supposedly not for profit public broadcasters—had started charging cable systems for the right to carry them on the cable, and they don’t want that revenue stream interrupted.  So they have threatened the Supreme Court in their brief to get out of the over-the-air broadcasting business.

Ahh, the sweet smell of number two in the chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

It reminds me of a line from Mel Brooks’ movie “Blazing Saddles” where Cleavon Little puts a gun to his head and says, “Hold it. Next man makes a move, and the nigger gets it.”

This august group of manure spreaders is threatening the Supreme Court with killing off their multi-Billion dollar business if they don’t get their way.

One would only hope that the Supremes will call their bluff, exactly like it did when the lead plaintiff sued Sony back in 1984 over the introduction of the home videocassette machine.

And if the FCC had any cojones (it doesn’t), it would look at the broadcast holdings of each of the aforementioned manure spreaders to see how well they have been serving as trustees in the public interest, convenience, and necessity.

Photo credit: afagen (Creative Commons)

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom