Americans for Tax Reform led a coalition with other center-right organizations flagging concerning developments in the infrastructure bill negotiations. Price controls and rate regulation; dramatic expansion of executive brand and agency authority; and government-controlled internet should never be on the table.
You can read the letter below or click HERE for a full version:
July 23, 2021
RE: Broadband Infrastructure Spending
We write to you today over some concerning developments in the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations on broadband. We are guided by the principles of limited government and believe that the flaws in the infrastructure framework go well beyond the issues discussed here. Nonetheless, our present aim is to advocate specifically against proposals that would enact price controls, dramatically expand agency authority, and prioritize government-controlled internet.
The infrastructure plan should not include rate regulation of broadband services. Congress should not authorize any federal or governmental body to set the price of any broadband offering. Even steps that open the door to rate regulation of broadband services will prove harmful in the long run.
Nor should Congress continue to abdicate its oversight responsibilities to executive branch agencies like the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Giving NTIA unchecked authority to modify or waive requirements, renders all guardrails placed by Congress meaningless. There must be oversight of the programs to ensure that taxpayer dollars go toward connecting more Americans to broadband as opposed to wasteful pet projects.
Historically, attempts by NTIA to close the digital divide through discretionary grants have failed, leading to wasteful overbuilds, corruption, and improper expenditures. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created the $4 billion Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant program administered by NTIA. From 2009, when BTOP was instituted, to 2017, at least one-third of all the reports made by the Inspector General for the Department of Commerce were related to the BTOP program, and census data showed that the BTOP program had no positive effect on broadband adoption. And this was with only $4 billion in taxpayer dollars. We cannot afford to make the same mistake with much greater sums.
Legislation must be clear and not create ambiguities that are left to the whims of regulators. While “digital redlining” is unacceptable, the FCC should not be allowed to define the term however it sees fit and promulgate any regulations it thinks will solve problems—real or imagined. Doing so would give the agency carte blanche to regulate and micromanage broadband in any way it desires. This would be an egregious expansion of FCC authority. Moreover, definitions and regulations could change whenever party control of the agency changes, leading to a back-and-forth that creates uncertainty for consumers and businesses.
Legitimate desire to ensure that low-income Americans have access to broadband infrastructure should not be used as a smokescreen to codify aspects of the recent Executive Order on Competition, which should not be included in any bipartisan infrastructure agreement. Republicans fought hard to support the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order. Any legislating on the functions and deployment of Internet technologies must move as a standalone bill through regular order with committee review. These questions are far too important to shoehorn into a massive bill without rigorous debate.
Any funding for broadband buildout must target locations without any broadband connection first, and this should be determined by the Congressionally mandated FCC broadband maps. Congress has oversight over the FCC and the FCC has already conducted several reverse auctions. Reverse auctions get the most out of each taxpayer dollar towards closing the digital divide. Areas where there is already a commitment from a carrier to build out a network, should not be considered for grants, and the NTIA should not be able to override the FCC’s map to redefine “unserved” and subsidize duplicative builds.
Government-controlled Internet should not be prioritized in any grant program. With few exceptions, government-owned networks (GONs) have been abject failures. For example, KentuckyWired is a 3,000-mile GON that was sold to taxpayers as a $350 million project that would be complete by spring of 2016. Those projections could not have been more wrong. More than five years past the supposed completion date, fiber construction for KentuckyWired is still “in progress” in some parts of the state and a report from the state auditor has concluded that taxpayers will end up wasting a whopping $1.5 billion on this redundant “government owned network” over its 30-year life. NTIA should certainly not encourage these failures to be replicated.
We appreciate your work to help close the digital divide and agree that access to reliable internet is a priority, however we should not use this need to serve as a cover for unnecessary
government expansion. Please feel free to reach out to any of the undersigned organizations or individuals should you have questions or comments.
* individual signer; organization listed for identification purposes only
Partisanship and Violence in Congress — Not All partisanship Is Bad, but Some partisanship Is Catastrophic
Washington is a city that has long been known for partisanship. Even as respected and honored as he was, George Washington was viciously and unjustly attacked by partisans.
Thomas Paine who helped build support for America’s independence by writing the historic political pamphlet “Common Sense,” accused Washington of corruption and wrote that “the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any.”
Partisans for Thomas Jefferson and John Adams viciously attacked each other with such labels as: atheist, tyrant, coward, fool, hypocrite, and weakling. Jefferson’s allies accused Adams of having a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” Adam’s partisans called Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”
By Michelle L. Price • Boston Globe
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A stamp that mistakenly featured the image of a Statue of Liberty replica in Las Vegas instead of the original New York Statue will cost the U.S. Postal Service $3.5 million in a copyright infringement lawsuit.
Las Vegas sculptor Robert Davidson, who created the replica Lady Liberty in the facade at the New-York-New York casino-resort on the Las Vegas Strip, sued the Postal Service five years ago over its 2011 ‘‘forever’’ stamp design.
The stamp featured the face of his Lady Liberty, which his attorneys argued in court filings was unmistakably different from the original and was more ‘‘fresh-faced,’’ “sultry’’ and even ‘‘sexier.’’
By Heather Wilhelm • National Review
After a week of political chaos, endless dispatches of depressing news from the border, and widespread evidence of years of government incompetence, I have a proposal certain to unite citizens of all political stripes. Here it is: Let’s fire every single politician in Washington, D.C.
Admit it, friends: Deep down, you love this plan. In an ideal world, you might want to fire every single politician in Washington, D.C., right away — I personally have a few honorable and notable exceptions in mind, but it’s probably best to keep everyone on their toes — but we all know that’s not realistic. Fortunately, there’s an alternative idea that is at least somewhat realistic, despite naysayers from both parties: term limits.
We already have term limits for the president, of course, which I hope you find marvelous no matter who is in office. But what about Congress, that multi-headed beast with a 17 percent approval rating and an impressive penchant for getting almost nothing meaningful or important done? Continue reading
Congress has too much power already; it should not have the power to silence citizens.
For two centuries there has been bipartisan agreement that American democracy depends on free speech. Alas, more and more, the modern Democratic Party has abandoned that commitment and has instead been trying to regulate the speech of the citizenry.
We have seen President Obama publicly rebuke the Supreme Court for protecting free speech in Citizens United v. FEC; the Obama IRS inquire of citizens what books they are reading and what is the content of their prayers; the Federal Communications Commission proposing to put government monitors in newsrooms; and Sen. Harry Reid regularly slandering private citizens on the Senate floor for their political speech. Continue reading
President Obama’s State of the Union address will focus on “income inequality.” One can understand why he wants to change the subject from the very real problems America faces. His policies have made those problems worse. Obamacare has caused tens of thousands of Americans to lose their health plans and forced them into insurance exchanges that cost more and provide fewer doctor choices. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are still out of work and even more have stopped looking.
On the foreign policy front, the president and Secretary of State John Kerry remain determined to throw a lifeline to Iran’s sinking economy in exchange for vague promises of future cooperation on nuclear proliferation.
The president wants you to forget all that and now consider the plight of the poor. Sadly, he hasn’t done a very good job there either. That’s because his own actions as president have made the poor worse off. Reducing poverty has never been a major priority of this administration. Continue reading