Broadband

Those E-mail Tax Warnings Weren't False; They Were Sent from the Future!

FCC looks at new taxes to pay for expanding broadband access for five percent of the population.

|

Well, somebody has to pay for those farmers to stream porn on their Macbooks, and if you follow America's agricultural policies, you know it's obviously not going to be them. Via The Hill:

The Federal Communications Commission is eyeing a proposal to tax broadband Internet service.

The move would funnel money to the Connect America Fund, a subsidy the agency created last year to expand Internet access.

The FCC issued a request for comments on the proposal in April. Dozens of companies and trade associations have weighed in, but the issue has largely flown under the public's radar. 

"Look at those otters swimming and holding hands at the same time! I had no idea what I was missing!"

The Connect America Fund declares on its website: "Broadband has gone from being a luxury to a necessity for full participation in our economy and society – for all Americans." Citation needed, perhaps, maybe? The site also claims there are 18 million Americans without "robust broadband" access. It does not point out that this is just five percent of the U.S. population. It does have a photo of a farmer sitting on a tractor wheel looking at a laptop, though.

The use of the word "robust" is important. This isn't just about providing infrastructural access to broadband for people who don't have broadband. It's about the federal government using taxes and fees to subsidize the improvement of existing private transmission systems:

Julius Genachowski, the FCC's chairman, has made expanding broadband access his top priority. He argues that a high-speed Internet connection is critical for succeeding in the 21st century economy and that expanding Internet access is the country's next great infrastructure challenge.

But the money for the new Internet subsidy is still coming from the fees on phone bills.

And in recent years, with more people sending emails instead of making long-distance phone calls, the money flowing into the program has begun to dry up. The Universal Service fee has had to grow to a larger and larger portion of phone bills to compensate.

So they're talking about ideas like taxes on broadband or even taxes on text messages to pay for this venture. The next time your overly credulous aunt sends you a forward from her AOL account warning that Congress is going to start taxing e-mails, she might not need to be reminded to visit Snopes now and then.

Some of this broadband expansion is already getting significant government funding. In 2010 a nonprofit collective was granted $81 million in federal stimulus funds to build 400 miles worth of Internet cable through the California desert to reach its most isolated communities. Here's how Michael Ort, speaking for the collective, justified it:

"It meant that not everyone could get broadband in the area and the broadband they could get may not have been as fast as the government set a standard for," Ort said.

Ort claimed the project would provide an estimated 1,100 jobs. However about 700 of those jobs would be temporary construction jobs, and Ort said the project would ultimately provide about 50 permanent jobs. The remaining jobs Ort classified as "indirect jobs," jobs Ort said will be created in the private market as a side effect of the construction.

"(We're) buying equipment, tools, we're renting rooms in motels — those generate jobs," he said.

$81 million dollars for 50 permanent jobs, a bunch of jobs that will probably be guaranteed to labor unions in order to avoid environmental lawsuits, and a bunch of jobs that are entirely made up ("indirect jobs"). All this expense will provide broadband (or rather, improve the quality of broadband) for a small number of people who may not even want it for all we know. (I was the editor of the Desert Dispatch at the time this story was written, and they couldn't even give us an estimate on how many people were expected to benefit from this access. When this story was written, Barstow, a town of 25,000 in the Mojave Desert, had three private high-speed Internet providers)

And, of course, a final reminder that this is just to provide these rural residents the ability to buy broadband service. So this tax is to pay for the government to build an infrastructure for broadband providers, who then get the benefit of charging customers for service without having to invest their own money on infrastructure. Much like the government's renewable energy subsidies, taxpayers are being forced to pay for the construction of facilities of dubious market value for the benefit of private industry. If this were an oil company, what kind of outcry would there be?

NEXT: Whole Police Force Laid Off in the Garden State

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The media can always find one rural shut-in who has trouble ordering her meds because her internet isn’t broad-bandy enough.

    Project justified.

    1. Even after this tax is levied, one imagines. Justification forever!

  2. Gimme a fucking break.

    Sitting in a huge metal rim has to fuckup your WiFi signal strength.

    1. (do we also have to subsidize the 50 wireless repeaters that guy will need to get any signal more than 10ft from his house?)

      1. In the history of silly questions, this has to be one of the silliest.

        1. I know, I know.

          “Of course we do.”

  3. Fun fact: You can survive without the internet. I wouldn’t want to, but that’s part of the reason I work a good job.

    1. Yeah, but market failure!!!! That’s how liberals describe the lack of broadband in lowly populated or remote areas.

      1. Yeah, but market failure!!!! That’s how liberals government agencies describe the lack of broadband in lowly populated or remote areas.

        FIFY

        1. True, I wouldn’t doubt that many of these farmers on government welfare are Republicans.

          1. Most of the politicians that cover my parents’ area are. To get elected from that region the best strategy is to be a Republican and “fight for farmers” (meaning promoting things like the Northeast Dairy Compact, farm aid/handouts, and other measures designed to prevent competition from large firms)

          2. I think most of those farmers are Repubs. And most of their Congressmen are, too. There is something naturally Repub – in the macro sense – about farming: you are a businessman, you are providing a necessary market good, you are hard-working, etc etc. The part about “you are heavily subsidized” is usually left out becuase it fails the Repub narrative test.

        2. Yeah, but market failure!!!! That’s how liberals government agencies describe the lack of broadband in lowly populated or remote areas.

          Same thing.

      2. Since when do liberals give two fucks about rural, bitter clingers?

        This administration cannot leave soon enough.

    2. Another Fun Fact: People who do not currently have internet access are most likely unfamiliar with how it operates and thus are extremely vulnerable to a variety of scams and Identity Theft scenarios.

      Sure, let’s give them free internet access so they can get ripped off.

  4. I’m sure in the future we’ll have broadband powered by Mr Fusion garbage generators, as well as flying cars. In fact, I would say the only thing inaccurate about the Back to the Future is its depiction of the Cubs winning the World Series by 2015.

    1. In the future, anything that isn’t urban blight is going to be desolate wasteland. Street samurai will provide bodyguard services to all the wetwired deck-heads in the event they need to drop out of cyberspace and move their meat from one place to another.

    2. Back to the Future changed the future by showing it to us. Originally the Cubs were going to give up and pull a Browns/Ravens style World Series win. BttF gave them too much hope.

  5. “Broadband has gone from being a luxury to a necessity for full participation in our economy and society ? for all Americans.

    My, how the stupid burns. Let us call everything a necessity, that way we can justify stealing even more money from the producers and give to the takers. If the gov would stay the hell out of it, Hughes would probably firgure out a way to get broadband to the county folks. And broadband is not needed for most of the shit you do on the internet.

    1. This is a special market, therefore we are going to institute a broadband insurance mandate penaltax.

    2. it never crosses the minds of the bureaucracy borg that if something is, in fact, a necessity, that multiple service providers will rush to fill the gap. If people really want something, some company is going to figure out a way of providing it.

  6. Last I looked there was still a rural electrification agency or some sort. Yeah, when everyone is getting the internet at 50G per second directly into their brain wirelessly, these people will still be taxing and working to expand broad band access.

    1. It’s not about broadband or electricity, it’s about jobs.

      1. It’s not about broadband or electricity, it’s about jobs.

        Then let us hire 50 men to dig holes and 50 men to come behind them and fill in the holes. It is about coming up with a bullshit excuse to take money from the people that produce things and giving it to connected firms who do not. Calling it a “necessity” is just cover.

    2. The Rural Electrification Administration.

      Bringing ‘lectricty to toothless banjo pickers since 1935. They’ll get to everyone hooked up real soon now.

    3. One of the more surreal experiences I’ve had is visting the Department of Agriculture headquarters in DC. The inside of the building is out of the 1930s, with long hallways with dozens of offices marked with brass nameplates for dozens of bureaus and divisions that no longer have any reason to exist (if they ever did). Bureaus like the Rural Development Utilities Program, the Housing and Community Facilities Program, endless loan, grant, subsidy programs, etc.

  7. Fuck these people. I just had a satellite system installed that gives 12 mbps download. The cost was just the same as the local wireless system that gave me only 500 kbps.

    Unless you live in a fucking jungle, you can look to the sky and get quality services at resonable prices.

    1. Not even then. You can get kick ass wireless in Iraq and Afghanistan off the local economy. You can get it anywhere. Fucking Bushman in the Kalahari have broadband.

      1. Not even then. You can get kick ass wireless in Iraq and Afghanistan off the local economy. You can get it anywhere. Fucking Bushman in the Kalahari have broadband.

        But you have to pay market rates for the service. That is unfair to the poor wretched mass of humanity.

        1. If it is not given to you for free, you don’t really have it.

      2. That porn vid – you didn’t stream that, someone else fapped to that.

      3. When I referenced “jungle”, I was talking about trees john. You need line of sight to the southwestern sky.

        1. I’ve got a nice hill topped with hundred plus foot pines to my southwest.

          Good thing I have cable.

        2. You need line of sight to the southwestern sky.

          Wouldn’t that depend on where you are?

          1. Yes, depends on the location of the geostationary satellite. It is significantly west of Iowa.

          2. No one is interested in your cartesian relativism.

            1. You can’t judge my view! You’re way over there, and I’m over here!

    2. a satellite system installed that gives 12 mbps download.

      They still haven’t got the satellite online for my region, but just thinking about that kind of speed gives me an iChubby.

      1. New service. Been online for only 3-6 months. My wife has to deal with the IT department on a regular basis. Three of those geeks signed up for the service in the last couple of months. They all live in town where Cable and DSL are available. It will slow down as the service loads up with people, but it is fucking amazing right now.

        1. I’ve been told that the round trip time can be frustrating and makes MMOGs impossible.

          1. Yes. Lag time can ruin VPNs and MMOGs.

            But porn downloads in a blink 😉

            1. Yes. Lag time can ruin VPNs…

              Guess I don’t regret it after all. I’d hate to be unable to work from home (not that I can at the moment, but that issue should be fixed before the snow flies).

              1. My wife has had no problem connecting to work through the new service. And I’ve connected from Europe and Asia many times. Most VPN services recognize channels with big lags and adjust. But MMOGs are still fucked.

                1. I haven’t played Battlefield 1942 in a couple years. I guess it would work. If I could see the satellite that is.

                  1. All online gaming that is based on reaction time is hosed with satellite internet. Looking at 1000ms or higher ping all the time.

                    Poker, Scrabble, type games no biggie.

      2. The installer says the next bird goes live in 2 years, right about the time my contract expires. So I’ll sign a new contract then and switch to a higher performance bird.

  8. WHy would I want to access braodband from my tractor? It would be like using a laptop on your motorcycle. These DC types sure as hell know nothing about farming.

    1. They know everything they need to know about farming: It’s subsidies all the way down.

    2. The big tractors have GPS and autopilots that will trace a line across a field with 12 inch accuracy. The sprayers are driven by a computer and will put herbizide or fertilizer down in measured dosages in areas measured in single-digit square-foot patches.

      1. http://www.deere.com/en_US/cro…..rting.html

        Right now it requires a couple of steps, but if farmers had Tractor Broadband from USDA, they could file directly from the tractor and see their back accounts grow faster than the corn.

  9. “Are all emails from the future loud-mouthed braggarts?”

    “Nope. Just me, baby. Just me.”

    1. Excellent line that doesn’t get quoted often enough.

      1. “First you wanna kill me, JJ, now you wanna kiss me. Blow.”

  10. If robust broadband infrastructure is so damned important, why does it on some days take over an hour for me to download a simple pornographic movie while on other days I’ve finished the whole process – including happy ending credits if you know what I mean – in fifteen minutes?

    1. Well, it depends whether it’s HD or not, you idiot.

      1. It’s all HD, dummy. Who the hell is watching adult entertainment these days in standard def where you can’t even judge how recent the Brazilian wax job was?

        1. Because its easier to pretend not to see the pimples on the chicks’ asses from lying in diverse fluids all day in SD.

    2. On a similar note, my girlfriend turned 24 yesterday and started work today. Guess it’s time to move to a younger, more available one, huh?

      1. That is correct. Anything over 23 is like fucking your grandma.

        1. But I am fucking a grandmother ?!

        2. That is what I thought. I believe I noticed a grey hair yesterday.

          She seems to think the fact that I’m already 24 matters. Silly woman.

          1. 24

            Married with two kids and a year away from losing my job and going back to college.

            Good times indeed.

          2. 24

            Recovery from my cocaine/valium binge during 1986-1987. Lived in my car for three months, voted some whackjob named Ron Paul for President.

            1988 was a pretty good year!

  11. Michael Ort, speaking for the collective…

    …resistance is futile.

  12. $81 million dollars for 50 permanent jobs,

    Perhaps that explains why no one wanted to build there?

  13. a nonprofit collective was granted $81 million in federal stimulus funds to build 400 miles worth of Internet cable through the California desert to reach its most isolated communities.

    Jeebus on a crutch. There are now two, count ’em, two satellite internet providers in the US with high-speed services. I happen to live just outside the footprint on one, and should get my satellite online with the other within a month.

    I can’t imagine that it would cost $81mm to put up a satellite just for those communities served by this cable. What a frikkin scam.

    1. I can’t imagine that it would cost $81mm to put up a satellite just for those communities served by this cable. What a frikkin scam.

      At ~$10,000 a pound (not counting what Elon Musk claims the Falcon 9 will cost, which iirc is possibly as low as $500 a pound), and a typical mass of ~12,000 lbs for a geostationary comm-sat, you’re looking at $120 million just for launch costs alone.

      Although this is a huge waste of government funds, and for something they have no business funding in the first place.

      1. But he said:

        I can’t imagine that it would cost $81mm to put up a satellite just for those communities served by this cable.

        The satellite you described would also provide services to tons of other locations, which means that RC is technically correct- the best kind of correct.

    2. A commercial communications satellite is probably in the quarter billion dollar range to build and launch. Probably with a 10 to 15 year operational lifespan. But they can make a profit selling the service at $50 a month to each subscriber.

  14. Some of this broadband expansion is already getting significant government funding. In 2010 a nonprofit collective was granted $81 million in federal stimulus funds to build 400 miles worth of Internet cable through the California desert to reach its most isolated communities

    Gosh, do you mean to tell me that if I move to the sticks, that I wont have the same choices and level of services that them there city folk do? Where is that written in the Constitution?

    1. Rural Americans all over the country are deprived of quality operas, Michelin five star restaurants and artisan mayonnaise. Why do you hate America JW?

      1. WHAT!? Why didn’t anyone tell me this? We need to start taxing every bite that every American eats to save these poor benighted souls from their wretched non-foodie existence.

      2. As a city person I am about to file suit against my landlord for not providing me the necessity of a private backyard.

      3. No, John, NPR reporters are deprived of quality operas, Michelin five star restaurants and artisan mayonnaise when they pop by to talk to folksy ‘regulars’ living in flyover country about the ravages of global warming.

        The people living in these areas could give a damn about broadband internet.

        Liberals, gentrifying the world, one farming town at a time.

        1. The aquifer is going dry because of global warming. Growing things that have no business growing there by pumping out all of the ground water has nothing to do with it.

      4. Uh, John, you philistine, the most Michelin stars a place can get is three. Like Adria’s El Bulli.

        1. No one goes there anymore. You don’t go to the French Laundry? They probably give people like you a table anyway.

        2. I thought Michelin sold tires. But what do I know.

      5. My state just relaxed fireworks laws, but still allowed individual municipalities to keep the good stuff illegal.
        Needless to say, without exception every town or city with something that could be called a “downtown” banned them.

        I was shooting off mortars last night with my neighbor.

        I love living in the sticks!

  15. Honestly, the internet availability (via cell phone) in rural areas I’ve been to out West typically exceeds the availability of on-the-grid electricity.

  16. We need to get the Koch brothers elected to office. I now believe that’s the only thing that will cause liberals to become skeptical of government.

    1. From what I’ve read, they already run the gummint.

  17. My old man doesn’t have broad band. Not because he lives in some remote mountain wilderness, but because he’s too cheap to pay for it. It would cut into his beer budget. So now I have to pay taxes so the old man can have something he could but would rather not pay for? So he can buy more of that Keystone swill?

  18. So, they’ll fuck over our cars and roads to herd us all into cities, then turn around and levy an obnoxious fee to make sure that people living in the sticks have just as good of an internet connection as everyone else. Christ, make up your minds.

  19. And why don’t’t rural American’s have Starbucks within walking distance of wherever they are? This is a real need.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.