Once again the Federal Communications Commission is attempting to plunder the pockets of American taxpayers to engage in socialistic wealth redistribution scheme. Similar to that implemented by the Universal Service Fund to insure that everyone in remote areas of the United States has access to telephone service. Or the tax that provides for specialized telephone equipment supplied to people with impaired hearing, sight or other disabilities. We are speaking of BILLIONS of dollars which are flowing through the government to government-regulated special interests.
How many people were aware that $4.5 BILLION of the Universal Service Fund was simply paper-designated to an Internet subsidy called the “Connect America Fund?”
Broadband has gone from being a luxury to a necessity for full participation in our economy and society – for all Americans. For that reason, the FCC has adopted comprehensive reforms of its Universal Service Fund (USF) and Intercarrier Compensation (ICC) systems to accelerate broadband build-out to the 18 million Americans living in rural areas who currently have no access to robust broadband infrastructure. This reform will expand the benefits of high-speed Internet to millions of consumers in every part of the country by transforming the existing USF into a new Connect America Fund (CAF) focused on broadband. <Source: FCC>
How many people know that there is a non-governmental organization (with its own well-paid bureaucratic structure) involved?
The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) is an independent, not-for-profit corporation created in 1997 to collect universal service contributions from telecommunications carriers and administer universal support mechanisms (programs) designed to help communities across the country secure access to affordable telecommunications services. USAC carries out its functions as the administrator of the federal universal service programs and universal service fund (USF) under the oversight of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). USAC administers universal service programs for high cost companies in rural areas, low-income consumers, rural health care providers, and schools and libraries. <Source: USAC>
And that the Board of Directors governance appears to be stacked in favor of the special interests?
USAC's Board of Directors represents the universal service stakeholder community.
Three (3) directors represent incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) made up from the following:
- one for Bell Operating Companies (BOCs),
- one for ILECs other than BOCs with annual operating revenues over $40 million, and
- one for ILECs other than BOCs with annual operating revenues less than $40 million.
Two (2) directors represent interexchange carriers (IXCs) (i.e., long distance companies) made up from the following:
- one for IXCs with over $3 billion in annual operating revenues, and
- one for IXCs with less than $3 billion in annual operating revenues.
Three (3) directors represent schools that are eligible to receive discounts.
One (1) director represents libraries that are eligible to receive discounts.
Two (2) directors represent rural health care providers that are eligible to receive discounts.
Seven (7) directors, each representing one the following:
- wireless providers,
- competitive local exchange carriers,
- cable operators,
- information service providers,
- low-income consumers,
- state telecommunications regulators, and
- state consumer advocates.
USAC's chief executive officer is also a Board member. <Source>
And that the head honcho is a Washington-type liberal lawyer?
Scott Barash is the Acting CEO of USAC. He joined USAC as its first in-house attorney in 1999. Previously, he was a partner in the Washington, DC office of a national law firm where he concentrated on complex civil litigation, particularly in the telecommunications field and on behalf of trade associations, charitable organizations, and other not-for-profit organizations.
Before that, he was a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Federal Programs Branch. During his tenure at the Justice Department, he handled a wide variety of litigation on behalf of numerous federal agencies. He earned a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School. He served as a law clerk to Judge R. Lanier Anderson, III, of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. <Source>
The next FCC move, detailed in a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.” is to increase the amount of incoming revenue by imposing additional taxes on the consumer. Those wishing to read the FCC’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking can find it here.
Why did $4.5 BILLION dollars come from telephone users to fund the Connect America Fund? I can understand that older telephone service required the use of physical connections over copper wire. But, cellular service is a “wireless” system. So why are phone users now being milked to provide Internet service?
Why should the taxpayer be required to fund cellular sites that allow the special interests, the communications carriers, to defray build-out costs and still collect money from users. Money which flows to their bottom line and rewards executives (bonuses) and investors (increases in share price). Why shouldn’t these services be provided free to all users if they are regarded as a necessity of life and the infrastructure is paid for by taxes?
Why should the taxpayer be required to fund satellite access systems just because a person chooses to live in a rural area?
Is the fundamental principle correct?
Is access to the Internet a fundamental right? Is healthcare a fundamental right? These are questions that must be answered by Congress, not a hyper-political government agency.
The FCC’s has redefined its mission …
The Federal Communications Commission should be restricted to its fundamental mission. One, to allocate the communications spectrum through licensing and oversight. Two, to insure that devices that operate within this spectrum meet stringent technical qualifications so that their signals do not impact the signals of others. Three, to license individuals to possess and operate telecommunications equipment. Four, to conduct limited research and analysis on equipment to insure their suitability for use within the broadcast spectrum. They should not involve themselves in moral issues such as policing the airwaves for nudity or swearing. They should not be involved in administering programs which have not been sanctioned by Congress. They should not create non-governmental or quasi-governmental agencies that are not directly overseen by Congress. And most of all, the directors of the FCC should not be political hacks or their politically-connected special interest friends.
For years the Internet has been controlled by organizations without government interference. The IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) which sets inter-operability standards. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) which provides for the issuance and control over top-level domains. Let us not allow any bureaucratic agency, foreign or domestic, assume control over these institutions which have worked so well in the past and will continue to work well in the future.
Bottom line …
There are BILLIONS of dollars that are washing through the system with little or no public disclosure. Ostensibly used for the betterment of citizens, these taxation systems actually represent agency administrative rulings WHICH IS TANTAMOUNT TO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.
I am not saying that these programs are bad, just that they should be created, debated and approved by Congress as is every other tax. Otherwise, the President and his fellow travelers can skirt Congress at will and tax American citizens who have no legitimate method for redressing this particular grievance. How likely are those that govern this hidden system to demand the efficient and effective use of those funds? How much oversight is a hyper-politicized agency likely to provide knowing that all of the big players have significant lobbying activities which can be milked for campaign funds?
I pay for my own equipment and my access to the Internet. If there is no satisfactory coverage in my area, I can move or make other arrangements. The idea that one needs “high-speed” broadband access as a condition of life is ludicrous. Especially if it is paid by an inefficient tax administered by unscrupulous people for their own self-benefit.
If we are serious about providing this service, it can be done by simply using the low-frequency portion of the broadcast spectrum to provide near universal signal coverage at minimal costs. Especially, by limiting the profits sucked out of the system by those who would be gatekeepers. If the for-profit people want to reap the revenue rewards, let them fund the build-out and profit accordingly.
I cannot help but think of the difference between that charlatan Thomas Edison, who had others do his work and ran to the patent office at the drop of a hat, and Nicola Tesla whose work gave us most of our modern electrical device. A man who died alone and broke in a hotel room because his backers found out that there was no way to monetize Tesla’s invention of providing free energy out of the atmosphere with little more than a suitably-tuned antenna. Had the government intervened over the special interests, this might have been a different world.
But here the government is controlled by the special interests. And mostly in unaccountable ways. It is time to return government back to “We the People” and make our representatives vote on each and every tax in an open, transparent and accountable manner such as that envisioned by our forefathers.