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By Phil Kerpen

If you "cut the cord" and switch from cable TV to streaming services, you will probably notice that one big difference in price happens because that long section of your bill with taxes and fees is gone completely or dramatically slimmed down.  And as more customers go in that direction and competition intensifies on the incumbent franchised cable companies, they are justifiably calling foul on the often outrageous demands local governments place on them that result in more taxes and fees on your bill. 

To begin with, there is the maximum 5 percent franchise fee that localities are allowed to charge on cable service under the federal Cable Act.  That places cable at a disadvantage versus its video competitors, but it's authorized by law.  That 5 percent fee alone delivers over $3 billion a year to local governments.

Unsatisfied with that haul, however, local governments have begun concocting a wide variety of additional taxes, fees, and mandates that go on top of and violate the 5 percent federal cap.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering a rule that would close these loopholes and clarify that the 5 percent cap applies to all of the various and sundry cable-related exactions creative local governments have come up with, and would prohibit fees on broadband and other non-cable services as a condition of a cable franchise.

It is a good and necessary proposal and should be made final, before the most abusive local practices spread even further.

An appendix to the cable industry filing with the FCC shows how far things have gone already, including a number of Ohio ordinances requiring a "certificate of registration" with expensive regulatory requirements before a cable operator can offer non-cable services; a requirement in Corvalis, Oregon that requires a special franchise for Wi-Fi deployment; new additional fees for access to public rights-of-way in North Carolina, Kentucky, and New York City; and lengthy lists of communities all over the country demanding free government channels and free cable and Internet service at parks, libraries, government buildings, etc.  Many of these concessions may sound desirable – but they are costs that are ultimately borne by cable customers.  To the extent free services are desired, they can be demanded but must be counted towards the five percent cap, as the FCC has proposed and the Cable Act requires.

Then there are the taxes.  Eugene, Oregon is charging a 7 percent fee on broadband revenues in addition to their existing franchise fee on cable.  And after the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Eugene, some other cities across the state have followed suit with similar fees.  Similarly, Los Angeles, California is charging its 5 percent "possessory interest" tax on broadband and phone service.  In Texas, cable companies are being charged for right-of-way access twice – once for cable and once for phone – even though their services share a single wire.  These taxes/fees violate federal policy against local internet taxes and will only discourage the deployment of...

Jonathan Decker on February 21, 2019 | End Regulatory Tyranny
Washington, D.C.—American Commitment and the HSA Coalition are leading a coalition of nearly 20 national organizations, representing millions of members and supporters, in requesting that Senator Mike Enzi, Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Budget, enact wide-ranging reform of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) while selecting a new kind of director for the vital organization.  CBO is under intense criticism for providing inaccurate projections in its analysis of legislation (such as Obamacare exchange enrollment projections), seriously undermining Congress’s ability to accomplish its policy objectives.
 
In a letter sent to Chairman Mike Enzi, the coalition states: “There is a crying need for reform and modernization of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).   We are writing you with specific reform suggestions, as well as to urge you to select a completely different type of Director than has been selected in the past, one who has a track record of successfully reforming institutions and who will impose significant and greatly needed reforms on CBO.”
 
The coalition contends that CBO requires a new kind of director and lays out a series of specific recommendations including:
 
  • A Commitment to and a History of Accurate Financial Projections
  • Retroactive Scoring
  • Alternate Scores
  • Bring in Artificial Intelligence
  • Make the ‘Black Box’ Transparent
  • Use Scores Other than from CBO
  • Do Not Pick an Academic to be CBO Director
  • Create a Timely Scoring Process
 
The letter concludes: “We, the undersigned, urge you, Mr. Chairman, to consider these criteria for selecting the next CBO Director because a business-as-usual approach to filling this crucial position will result in business-as-usual at the CBO—and we must do better”
...
Jonathan Decker on February 20, 2019 | End Regulatory Tyranny
Jonathan Decker on February 20, 2019 | Restore Fiscal Sanity

 

Yesterday Trump's Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced that California will be required to pay back the federal taxpayer dollars it received for its spectacularly failed high speed rail project.

 

Click here to thank President Trump and Secretary Elaine Chao for forcing California to pay us back for its high-speed rail boondoggle!

 

California was granted over $3 billion in federal funds under Obama's 2009 stimulus package. Nearly a decade later, California still has zero operating high speed rail lines from Obama's "shovel ready jobs bill."

 

And Governor Gavin Newsom admitted the project is a failure in his State of the State speech, saying: "The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long... there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were.”

 

Ridiculously, Newsom then went on to say he would upgrade the existing Amtrak line between Merced and Bakersfield – in order to avoid returning the federal grant money.

 

...

By Phil Kerpen

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao did the right thing when she put the brakes on the Obama administration's regulatory mandate that would have forced an expensive technology called dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) in all new cars and trucks sold in America.  The Obama rule would have imposed total costs of $108 billion and raised the price of every new car about $300 – for a technology that is already obsolete.

Now comes the related policy question of what to do with the big chunk of prime spectrum that would have been used for the Obama plan – will it be opened up for unlicensed use, enabling gigabit WiFi to make the Internet work better on all of our devices?  Or will it continue to sit fallow on the prospects of potential future automotive use?

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has zealously guarded the 5.9GHz band since it was set aside by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1999.  Twenty years later, DOT's longtime preferred DSRC technology remains nearly undeployed – the technology is in just 18,000 of the 270 million some passenger vehicles in the country.  And the Obama DOT's own testing found that "every DSRC device deployed had to be recalled at least once... to identify and correct issues" and "there were more false alerts generated by the systems than anticipated."

Meanwhile, radar, lidar, camera-based, and cellular 4G technologies have been developed and enable a wide-array of driver-assist features.  As 5G is deployed it will bring even greater capabilities.

Yet DOT and automakers insist on a slow, three-phase series of tests to see whether WiFi can share spectrum with DSRC before making any changes.                            

The first phase was completed successfully in October, but as FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly observed: "The reality is that the entire debate has gravitated away from the type of sharing regime envisioned in the testing.  Instead, the Commission should move past this and initiate a rulemaking to reallocate at least 45 megahertz of the band, which is completely unused today for automobile safety."

He's right, and it's an issue with bipartisan agreement at the FCC.

Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel joined O'Rielly in a 2016 joint statement, saying: "We believe this slice of spectrum provides the best near-term opportunity for promoting innovation and expanding current offerings, such as Wi-Fi. That’s because combining the airwaves in this band with those already available for unlicensed use nearby could mean increased capacity, reduced congestion, and higher speeds."

The Trump DOT has stopped the Obama DSRC mandate but so far held on to the spectrum.  They have also, however, signaled a welcome shift to a technology-neutral approach, and are presently taking public comments on where vehicle communications technology is going.

Given the rapid development of mobile technology and the even greater capabilities coming with 5G – as well as sensor-based technologies being rapidly developed for driver-assist features and autonomous vehicles– it is possible...

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