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More Fallout From FCC VoIP Decision 304

Posted by michael
from the who-you-gonna-call dept.
EconomyGuy writes "While many of us have been celebrating the recent FCC decision to keep regulation off of VoIP, but there may be some undesirable results for those progressive geeks who believe government should do more than provide military defense. As VoIP takes off as a replacement for the traditional copper-wire network, local and state governments are going to lose more and more funding for important services like 911 and Universal Service."
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More Fallout From FCC VoIP Decision

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  • by Ckwop (707653) * <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Saturday November 27, 2004 @06:11AM (#10930142) Homepage
    .. but have netcraft confirmed it? Seriously, they'll just place a tax on a per megabyte basis.. Nothing to see here move along.. Simon.
    • No, 911 is NOT dying. It's an essential service, and a huge portion of the North Americain population has it ingrained to call that number in case of emergency. A fair number of people don't even know that the fire/ambulance/police departments even HAVE other phone numbers. Not all, or even a majority by any stretch, but enough to be highly significant. What I see as more likely is a sort of centralization of both the telecommunication and the 911 services. If VoIP is continent wide, then eventually 911 is
      • How much traffic in a given area's actually VoIP and not, say, MMORG or bitorrent?

        Great. More ways for people to claim that EverQuest and pirated movies cost lives.
      • How much traffic in a given area's actually VoIP and not, say, MMORG or bitorrent?) Sure, they'll keep the funding for 911 and others, but if everyone's shifted to VoIP, then those services will need/have a budget a tiny fraction of the size they do now, since no-one's on copper lines anymore.

        I should have stated more point more clearly. What I meant is that they'll tax ALL broadband communications - a communication tax of sorts.

        I don't buy the 911 point either. You can simply design the system to "kn

    • 911 sucks (Score:5, Funny)

      by DigiShaman (671371) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @06:25AM (#10930164) Homepage
      Seriously!!! After getting shot in my 91 CRX by two thugs high on LCD, PCP, and drunk, I called the cops from a store as soon as I fled the scene. It took 30 minutes. 30 fucking minutes before I got a call back from a COP in the area through his CB radio (patched in through 911)!

      It's a long story. But basically, the only that human scum got cought was because the driver passed out at the wheel.
      • Re:911 sucks (Score:4, Interesting)

        by dattaway (3088) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @06:34AM (#10930178) Homepage Journal
        Think that was bad? Someone broke into my house. Waiting time on 911 was 15 minutes. Police showed up 2 hours later.

        This was four years ago. Could it possibly get any worse?
        • Re:911 sucks (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ccmay (116316)
          Could it possibly get any worse?

          Yes, it could. In this country you can normally defend yourself by force. Imagine the situation in places like England where the population has been disarmed; they are defenseless against this kind of scum.

          -ccm

          • Re:911 sucks (Score:3, Insightful)

            by KontinMonet (737319)
            Yes, as a result guns are (still) remarkably rare in the UK. Any gun crimes get on the front pages. Ozzy Osbourne was burgled the other day and he tackled the guy who broke free and ran off (with the jewelry). If guns had been involved who knows what might have happened. We tend not to shoot people who come to the front door looking for directions as well...
        • Re:911 sucks (Score:5, Insightful)

          by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Saturday November 27, 2004 @10:03AM (#10930762) Homepage
          Think that was bad? Someone broke into my house.

          No, I don't think that's worse than the guy who got shot. Sorry.
        • And this, my friend, is why people should own guns and the means to defend themselves. Cops don't stop crime; they just ensure the people who perpetrated it are eventually caught. If you can't own and use a gun where you live, get a good kukri and a throwing knife set.
      • by stoney27 (36372) * on Saturday November 27, 2004 @06:42AM (#10930194) Homepage
        "...91 CRX by two thugs high on LCD,..."

        We might have a serious problem if people can get high on LCDs. :)

        -S
        • by l0b0 (803611)

          We might have a serious problem if people can get high on LCDs. :)

          In my younger days, y'know, when CRT was going strong, y'know, I, uh, tried it, and it was just, y'know, boom! It started with a 12", but I always needed more. I used to dream of the day I could score, y'know, 21" or sum'thin. But even when I reached it, it was still, y'know, not enough. Then LCD arrived, and it was, like, a new world. Now I'm using 17", y'know, but when you're down like this, y'know, it's only the next kick that counts. If I

  • by cwernli (18353) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @06:20AM (#10930151) Homepage
    If no taxes can be levvied on POTS anymore for funding emergency services and the like, there will surely be an alternative way of collecting those taxes.

    A flat tax, for example - say $0.50/month per resident. That should cover 911-expenses.
    • everyone should have a Cell / mobile so this is kind of moot

      plus who

      the local fire service gets its funding from where ? should they not fund the 911 call center ?
    • A flat tax, for example - say $0.50/month per resident. That should cover 911-expenses.

      Great, another regressive tax to pay for an essential service. Just make 911 service a manditory expenditure at a rate equal to $0.50/month/resident and pay for it out of the general fund. At least that way there is a chance it can be funded progressively.

  • by Gopal.V (532678) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @06:20AM (#10930153) Homepage Journal
    VoIP is nice, but it's overrated for most purposes IMHO. It's just trading the over inflated rates that most telepone companies offer for a lossy/crackling voice channel (my experience).

    I'm not American , but I see America going the wrong way and cutting funding for the wrong things (ok, it's not a socialist state) ... Education, Healthcare, Emergency services are things which have intangible returns on investment.

    Imagine a police force based on capitalism .. what would be it's return on investment .... oh, wait ...
    • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @08:50AM (#10930427)
      The beauty of VoIP for home is that if you already have a cable modem you can finally ditch that landline, thus saving you $40 a month or so. Not to mention that land line is getting pretty useless when most people are also sporting cell phones.

      >Education, Healthcare, Emergency services

      Saving $40 a month is almost $500 a year which goes a long way towards paying off hefty healthcare bills and credit cards to make up for our lack of services.
      • Saving $40 a month is almost $500 a year which goes a long way towards paying off hefty healthcare bills and credit cards to make up for our lack of services.

        ROFLMAO!!!!!!!!!

        If you think $500 a year will even put a dent in healthcare bills here in the US, I suggest you put down the crack pipe. A good friend of mine recently was laid off where I work. His healthcare insurance premium, for himself and his wife, for appalingly mediocre benefits, is over $800 a MONTH. Have you EVER had to go to a doctor f
    • by Rhinobird (151521) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @10:17AM (#10930820) Homepage
      Imagine a police force based on capitalism .. what would be it's return on investment

      There was a small town in Arizona or New Mexico somewhere that privitized thier police force. They actually lowered thier crime rate. If I remember correctly, the town hired a company to do the police work and paid bonuses for lowered crime stats. This made the police do crime prevention measures, instead of just post crime clean up. I wish I could remember the name of the town.
    • Imagine a police force based on capitalism .. what would be it's return on investment .... oh, wait ...

      We've had it in some parts of the U.S. It's called "civil forfeiture" [ij.org], where the government takes your stuff on the theory that your stuff (not you, who are in theory entitled to a trail, but your stuff, which isn't) has commited a crime. In some places the cops get to keep the money and property confiscated.

      "Ok, guys, today we can go after that street gang knocking over liquor stores...or we can go

  • by DeTHZiT (631864) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @06:20AM (#10930154) Homepage
    I'm sure that it will never become an issue. 911 is such an important, fundamental service, it will always be offered. Besides, as Big Brotherish as the government is these days, you could probably just call the free "terrorist hint line" and tell them Osama Bin Laden is trying to steal your car...
    • by nounderscores (246517) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @06:29AM (#10930171)
      and treat VoIP calls and pots calls the same?

      Wouldn't somebody with a VoIP phone servuce provider like http://www.usbphone.com.au/ [usbphone.com.au] that has a call relay station that can call land lines not be considered to be Universally covered?

      After all some places are too expensive to do last mile wiring for for pots, but you can justify using wireless links to cover that area for wireless internet.

      In this case, the govt might be able to achieve 911 and universal service without spending a dime, and pushing the cost back onto the consumer... which is either a bad or a good thing depending if you're blue or red... but the services will not need to disappear.

      (ps... is it just me or is it odd that "red" meant "communist" last century and "freemarketeer" today?)
      • "Couldn't 911 wire VoIP into their switchboard and treat VoIP calls and pots calls the same?"

        Sure, but how would that help them collect taxes to pay for it? Currently, there is a special tax on my phone bill that goes entirely to fund 911 service. They aren't allowed to charge that tax to VoIP users. Note that this tax is not charged for calling 911; it's charged for having a POTS phone.

        It's not like 911 pays for calls made *TO* them now. Their main costs are for personnel to answer the calls and dis
  • by JPriest (547211) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @06:24AM (#10930160) Homepage
    Between State tax, Federal tax, Social Secirity tax, Town tax, Property tax, and sales tax I pay something like 45 - 50% of my income in tax, plus I still pay taxes on all utilities and gas I put in my car.

    They can't let me have internet and VoIP without paying taxes on that too?

  • by cfalcon (779563) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @06:28AM (#10930167)
    I would argue that it's simply not the government's role to burden communications with taxes.

    One argument in the article is "not taxing this is not fair, because regular phones are taxed". This is a true statement, but I would argue that the *existing* taxes are an arbitrary joke: Americans are forced to pay per minute rates on "long distance" (meaning, another state, even though the actual route to another state and the same one could end up using the exact same satellite). Why? Well, it's because the goverment *taxes* based on per minute usage. Stating that the only way to achieve equality is to apply the same flawed system equally is not good logic.

    If the functionality of 911 is so important (I believe it is), then other ways can be brought about to pay for it. With the current market penetration of phones, it's not unreasonable to assume that almost everyone has access to 911, so an alternate method could be used, one that taxes everyone just as the current system does. It could even be rolled trivially into property taxes, it's can't be much because it's itemized on my monthly phone bill, and it is tiny.

    Saying that the only way we'll have goverment phone services or local governments gaining relevant revenue is to allow regulation of VOIP is beyond silly. There may be a difficult time of transition, but it's clear that progress is on the side of the new technology.

    But it's clear from the article what the *real* problem is:

    "The City of Seattle in 2003 collected $30 million from telephone utility taxes, its fourth largest source of revenue after property, B&O, and sales taxes."

    Here the argument becomes, "A technology to allow people to communicate was developed, and we allowed governments to tax it. Now that an alternative has come along, we need to allow governments to tax it or else the governments won't be getting as much of your money as they are used to."

    This is the same logic that would shut down an invention that generates endless free energy (Look at that electricity tax / the private sector that exists to deliver energy!), that would shut down an invention that creates delicious food out of thin air (sales tax / destroying the livelihood of farmers), a great solution in medicine that allowed people to be free of their various prescription drug dependencies... the same idea would oppose all of these things.

    Stepping out of utopia land, we can address the one thing we *can* replicate nearly for free, and realize that it is the same logic opposing free software.

    It is not good logic.
    • Your logic is impeccable.

      Something that really bugs me: cars cause pollution. Fine -- tax all cars, to remedy those whose lives are ruined by pollution. But phone service doesn't cause more 911 calls, nor directly create more poor people (who now need money, so that they can have a subsidised phone).

      I'm referring my two peeves on the phone bill: 911 service and so-called "Universal Service Fund" phone service (taxes to pay for phone service for the poor).

      If we want to be fair about 911 service, perhap
      • by Anonymous Coward
        The USF is to pay for the infrastructure in rural areas. Plenty of rich people live in rural areas. So I agree, fuck republicans, dirt cheap phone and data service for liberals. I don't want to talk to anyone Wyoming anyway.

        But you could learn a thing or two about economics. See no one wants to pay for infrastructure, but an infrastructure that's cheap for everyone to use generates a lot more commerce which inevitably enriches everyone. People like you, who don't advocate a cheap infrastructure, are r
        • an infrastructure that's cheap for everyone to use generates a lot more commerce which inevitably enriches everyone.
          This is a very insightful comment. It should not be insightful but just common knowledge. Unfortunately, very few people in the world "understand" economics. Some of them may be able to quote economic theory but they do not accept it. It is like smokers who know about health warnings but find excuses so they can claim that thousands of studies on the health effects of tabacco are wrong.
      • Uhh, the Universal Service fund is NOT to pay for phone service for the poor.

        It's to ensure that everyone, rich and poor, can get phone service for the same price, even if they live somewhere that makes providing phone service prohibitive.

        I don't mind paying an extra buck or so a month so that people in rural areas can have phone service. If it weren't for this fund, they'd have to pay $THOUSANDS of dollars to get phone lines run out to their location.

        Universal Service is a good thing. You wouldn't be wh
        • First, VoIP over satellite will largely eliminate the need to subsidize rural service unless the entrenched fat cats (traditional phone companies) sabotages it by successfully lobbying for government enforced fees and regulations.

          Second, perhaps it's not a good idea to subsidize people who want to live where they otherwise cannot afford to? In that direction lies suburban sprawl and people who commute 50 miles one way so the can live in the country.

      • The Universal Service Fund was originally charged against the phone companies themselves. They just didn't close the door on the option of the phone companies charging users to recover their losses on it. All that money you send in on that line-item goes to the phone company.
      • And you, sir, are what is wrong with America right now. Randian, uber-libraterian, egotistical self-interest. Looking at this ME, IMMEDIATLY, POV is beginning to make me sick. People should look out for the common good of their fellow man, this, I view, will probably be more beneficiant in the long run.

        I, for one, view it as a responcibility to care for those less fortunate than me, to try to raise them up to my level, so they can do the same to other unfortunates.

        Unless the couple cents that 911 servi
  • boo hoo (Score:5, Informative)

    by eclectro (227083) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @06:28AM (#10930170)
    local and state governments are going to lose more and more funding for important services like 911 and Universal Service

    I would agree 911 is an important phone service and should be provided.

    But all the other taxes?? I don't think so.

    The universl service fund was established to provide phone to rural areas. The question I have is "aren't rural areas wired already?". About internet for schools -- I say let the people who go to those schools pay for their own internet like I do. Libraries? I pay through the teeth through property taxes (Utah) already for library facilities.

    So much as the federal taxes go -- the federal tax was placed on the phone to pay for the war of 1812 -- isn't that war over and paid for yet? I know it has been used to pay for all the other wars since then, maybe I don't like to see war financed through my phone use.

    I know this is an oversimplification, but this represents a deep resentment of the government as it stands today, and I'm not to sure if I care if it crashes and burns. I'm sure others feel the same way -- that Washington (and many local governments) have lost touch with reality, as have the voters who keep "liars" in office on the basis of "moral" grounds.

    Yes I'm mad. Phone service can go away. I'll start to use carrier pigeon if necessary.

    • Re:boo hoo (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The universl service fund was established to provide phone to rural areas. The question I have is "aren't rural areas wired already?".

      The cost of maintaining and upgrading the wiring in rural areas has not been paid for already.

      -- ac

  • by hanssprudel (323035) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @06:42AM (#10930195)
    local and state governments are going to lose more and more funding for important services like 911 and Universal Service.

    Almost everybody agrees that 911 service is necessary, but it is far from obvious why this cannot be paid for by properly visible government spending, rather then trying to sneak it in like a backdoor tax on a specific service. Governments love to add little taxes here and there so as to make it opaque how much they are actually spending, leading a government with it's fingers everywhere hindering progress with useless regulation aimed only at preserving dying industries and the revenue government derives from them. Which is exactly what our "progressive" friend is saying should happen to VoIP.

    As for Universal Service, give me a break. People who live in rural areas don't pay special taxes so that I can get clean air, silence, and nice natural surroundings in the middle of the city. Why the hell should they? After all I chose to live here, which it's upsides (like 8 megabit broadband to the apartment) and its downsides. The same goes for people who want to live in rural areas: they chose to live where they do, and that means taking the benefits as well as the consquences, instead of crying that others should have to pay for your luxuries.

    Perhaps one day when I am older I will begin to understand how a human mind can work that calls itself progressive, and then attacks progress because it might get in the way large governments clectrocractic systems. I certainly don't now...
    • by standards (461431) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @09:22AM (#10930552)
      Almost everybody agrees that 911 service is necessary, but it is far from obvious why this cannot be paid for by properly visible government spending, rather then trying to sneak it in like a backdoor tax on a specific service.

      The 911 service tax is VERY visible on my telephone bill. In fact, it's a line item. It's much more visible than the amount of money taxes I spend on nuclear submarine building, for example.

      It seems reasonable to fund 911 services per phone number. It seems more fair and visible than taxing everyone's wage income by another $3 per year. I think this kind of use fee is fair and reasonable and should be encouraged because it does bring visibility to real expenses.

      Now, on the flip side, the bogus "regulatory fees" line item that the phone companies make up based on mostly on their marketing expenditures, now THEY are a problem!
      • It seems reasonable to fund 911 services per phone number. It seems more fair and visible than taxing everyone's wage income by another $3 per year. I think this kind of use fee is fair and reasonable and should be encouraged because it does bring visibility to real expenses.

        You might think it makes things more clear for this specific item, but many such taxes make it much more difficult to tell exactly how much tax you are actually paying. If you know exactly how much tax you are paying, and it all enter
  • by rhysweatherley (193588) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @06:43AM (#10930199)
    With more and more people moving to broadband, which is typically served out of a local telco or cable operator switch, what's the problem? Levy the 911 fees or what-not off that instead, perhaps with a rebate if you're already paying the levy on a separate connection.

    This is just another beat-up by the telcos who are afraid of VOIP. They should get into the data carriage business, and concentrate on delivering high speed data pipes to every home instead.

    It's the wire going in the door that you levy, stupid, not the protocol going over the wire! And those wires are in local neighborhoods, subject to local taxes. Just like they've always been.

    • If you tax the provider, the provider passes the tax onto the consumer anyways. Usually this is in the form of a much higher bill or hidden fees (usually labeled as Federal something or other) which are much more than the tax they are actually being charged.

      For example, this portable number thing or cell phones that recently was enacted in the US. The provider has to pay for this as a tax. Companies like Verizon actually charge the consumer much higher than they are charged to recoup (and make a profit on)


  • "While many of us have been celebrating the
    recent FCC decision to keep regulation off of
    VoIP, but there may be some undesirable results
    for those progressive geeks who believe
    government should do more than provide military
    defense."

    I cringe everytime when I read PC-speaks like the above - they just change EVERYTHING to suit their own narrow view !

    For instance - they call themselves "progressive", while in reality, they are for BIG GOVERNMENT !

    Please, keep your PC to you
    • For instance - they call themselves "progressive", while in reality, they are for BIG GOVERNMENT !

      When have "progressives" ever not been for big government?

      Of course the term has been used by many different ideologies, just like here in Oz the main conservative party is the "Liberal Party", but left-of-centre-left (and sometimes far left) is the common group is identifies.
    • What do you think 'progressive' means? Christ.

      As for the hoary and facile 'big government' trope... dude, really. Look at the election returns over the last 16 years. That ship has bloody well sailed. There's a reason that domestic discretionary spending has been rising faster under Bush than under Clinton, there's a reason that a Republican Congress passed a huge (and I do mean huge) Medicare expansion which was signed by a Republican president, there's a reason that No Child Left Behind represents on
  • just the facts ma'am (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:12AM (#10930234)
    http://www.researchedge.com/uss/dev.html

    DEVELOPMENT AND INSTITUTIONALIZING OF UNIVERSAL SERVICE
    Historical Context:

    The term "Universal Service" was introduced in 1907 by Theodore Vail, then President of AT&T. However, in the early twentieth century it had quite a different meaning in practice. Due to basic incompatibility or a lack of interconnection, competing local phone companies could often not connect their respective customers to each other. "Dual service" or subscribing to both services with the attendant duplicate wiring and equipment was common, especially for businesses. Thus, Universal Service at first meant compatibility and interconnectivity of competing phone services that we today take for granted. It was only later that the term "Universal Service" became associated with a social compact to connect those disadvantaged by geography, income or other factors.

    The Mann-Elkins Act of 1910 gave regulatory jurisdiction for interstate telecommunications to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), defining telephone companies as "common carriers" who were "to provide service on request at just and reasonable rates, without unjust discrimination or undue preference." The Communications Act of 1934, though not naming "Universal Service" specifically, lays out its basic tenets "so as to make available, so far as possible, to all people of the United States a rapid, efficient, nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges." Establishing the separate Federal Communications Commission, the act gave the commission new powers to regulate tariffs and services but expressly limited federal authority to interstate service. In 1994, the sixtieth anniversary of the Communications Act of 1934, President Bill Clinton said:

    When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed this historic legislation so many years ago, few realized the dramatic changes in communications that the future would hold. Yet that stroke of the pen ushered in the beginnings of the Information Age, an era in which vast amounts of knowledge flow freely across continents and circle the globe in a matter of seconds.

    Today, as we celebrate the vision of the authors of the Communications Act, we are still defining the role that telecommunications technology will play in our society. With a universe of electronic information at our fingertips, we can better educate our people, promote democracy, save lives, and create jobs across America. As we work to enhance the partnership between the public and private sectors, we continue to draw inspiration from the original Communications Act, which has long served to benefit all of our citizens and to propel our nation into the future.
    (Federal Communications Law Journal, Vol. 47, No. 2, December, 1994)

    There subsequently developed a series of programs, structures and protocols to encourage and enforce the expectation that basic local and long distance telephone service be available to all. The major components insuring ubiquitous availability of plain old telephone service (POTS) and other consumer services such as "free" broadcasting have been as follows:

    Universal Service Fund (USF):

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), anticipating the breakup of the Bell System, established the National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA) in 1983 as a membership association of local telephone companies. NECA is a non-profit company directly regulated by the FCC to establish and administer interstate access revenues, access charge pooling and administer the Universal Service Fund (USF) to provide assistance to telephone companies in high-cost areas (primarily rural, but defined as those with costs in excess of 115 percent of the national average). The funds are collected from major long distance carriers and administered and dispensed by NECA. The funds are used to extend telephone service to previously unserved areas, help pay for system extensions and to keep basic rates low.

    D
  • WHAT? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Kano (13027) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:16AM (#10930236) Homepage Journal
    • As VoIP takes off as a replacement for the traditional copper-wire network, local and state governments are going to lose more and more funding for important services like 911 and Universal Service.


    What? It's the 21st century. The Universal Service fee is bullshit. What part of the country is without telephone lines?

    The Universal Service fee is a subsidy for the well to do. Developers subdivide former farmland and put nice big houses on them. The phone companies need to build phone lines out to them, putting up poles, stringing cable and what not. The Universal Service Fee is a way for them to recoup that loss.

    It isn't about providing phones to poor underpriveledges children in Arkansas.

    LK

    • What? It's the 21st century. The Universal Service fee is bullshit. What part of the country is without telephone lines?

      The Universal Service fee is a subsidy for the well to do. Developers subdivide former farmland and put nice big houses on them. The phone companies need to build phone lines out to them, putting up poles, stringing cable and what not. The Universal Service Fee is a way for them to recoup that loss.

      It isn't about providing phones to poor underpriveledges children in Arkansas.


      Actually,
  • by automag (834164) * on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:16AM (#10930237)
    ...how huge corporations can extol the virtues of the 'American way,' 'free trade,' 'competition,' and the like only until the moment that they realize that they've become completely obsolete? Then they fight like drowning rats using silly arguments like 'not giving us your money any more will be BAD for you... Pay no attention to the progress behind the curtain.' This sounds durprisingly similar to the arguement that Verizon threw up earlier this week to prevent municipal Wi-Fi. Whatever. I say good riddance to 'em and bring on the progress.
    • by GoofyBoy (44399)
      >how huge corporations can extol the virtues of the 'American way,' 'free trade,' 'competition,' and the like only until the moment that they realize that they've become completely obsolete?

      Its corporations (the Baby Bells too) that are providing VoIP. I can't think of one major telecom company with land-based lines that don't have VoIP or plans to provide VoIP.

      >Then they fight like drowning rats using silly arguments

      Its the goverment that is pushing for taxation of VoIP and a corporation fighting
  • Fees. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sai Babu (827212) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:25AM (#10930252) Homepage
    Universal service fee [fcc.gov].

    911 is state of locally funded. The cell phone 911 problem is mainly a result of people not knowing where thay are. Net thing you know, there will be a lobby group to requre funding for 911 cell phones for dogs and cats. Hell, they can't tell us where they are either but there is some remote possibility that you might wreck your car or fall off a mountain and your dog or cat could push the panic button for you.

    There needs to be some sort of cost benefit analysis applied to this stuff. IMO, it's WRONG to 'tax' (fee) everyone in order to deal with people who are too stupid to know where they are. As for those situation where you may be able to push the panic button but not talk, there are commercial services available for those who desire this much coddling.

    VOIP over 2.5G or 3G phones will not steal monies from this 'tax' structure. The fee is a pass through from your phone company. They will still have to pay it and they will, generally, continue to pass it through. Interestingly, the only phone company owner I know says that there is no real accounting of these fees, even though the companies are required to pass through no more than they charge.

    I know that universaL access is charged on my IDSL line so no loss there if I go VOIP. Is it also charged to cable TV companies? If so, then VOIP is a red herring for more 'tax'.

    • the brain doesn't function real well when in intense pain. Let's see, my chest has been crushed by a steering wheel, my face smashed and burned by an airbag, and you want me to remember what the last mile marker I saw was? Add in the fact that the brain can block out a few minutes of memory around a severe accident and i don't see how "just remember where you are" is a solution.
  • As I understand it, the key concern is that an interface to the 911 service costs money, and someone has to pay for it. (And for "universal access"; someone please clue me in as to what that is and why it costs so much.) But...

    The City of Seattle in 2003 collected $30 million from telephone utility taxes, its fourth largest source of revenue after property, B&O, and sales taxes.

    For a VoIP connection to 911, aren't we talking the cost of a DSL line and some specialized software? It seems to me

    • You have to staff 911 with goverment employees and purchase and maintain some high tech stuff (communications to emergency services, voice recording, some specialized telecom stuff to trace calls) and overhead (legal advice, operations and procedures, auditing).
  • by jeif1k (809151) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @08:11AM (#10930329)
    911 service, access for the disabled, etc. are all things that are important to society as a whole. For example, the indirect benefit I derive from having the disabled be able to access the phone system are unrelated to whether I own a telephone myself. So, they should be paid for by society as a whole--through regular taxes.

    The likely reason these are surcharges on your telephone bill is because Congress was trying to hide taxes in "user fees" again, knowing full well that most people would end up paying for these anyway, not only as part of their own phone bill (which they could perhaps avoid) but also in higher prices for goods and services.

    If these are federally mandated services, then the federal government should pay for it out of federal taxes. If they have to be raised in order to do that, that's OK: you were paying the taxes anyway already, and at least making it part of the regular tax system means that (1) you see who is responsible for the expense (the federal government), (2) a separate bureaucracy for administering those taxes can get eliminated, and (3) phone companies have a harder time hiding phoney "federal" charges among real ones on their bills when such charges don't exist anymore.
  • It seems to me that a real progressive would favor a progressive tax structure where the wealthy pay a larger percentage of their income than the less wealthy.

    Telephone taxes are just another form of regressive taxes along with sales tax, gas tax, etc. that are not progressive at all. Lousy tax policy IMHO.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @09:38AM (#10930619) Homepage
    Every little podunk phone company on the planet is raking in big bucks from universal service fees, whether they need them or not. And we're all footing that bill. It's a pork barrel rife with corruption. Even the mob was getting into it, running a little phone company in MS and raking in the fees. Some are making so much money they're giving back more money to their customers every year than they pay on their phone bill. It's that bad.

    Between satellite internet and cell phones you don't need a wire running out to your house anymore.

    We're in the process of building a house that will produce its own electricity and won't have a phone line or any other type of wire connection. If we didn't want to rely on satellite and cell phones there are still more options beyond those. I'll probably get an Amateur Radio license anyway. When everything else goes to crap it's one of the few comm channel that manages to stay working.

    Dump the Universal Service and use the money for something productive. Cut the cord and move on.

    • This isn't related to phone service, but personally, I think cutting the cord to the power company is a mistake.

      I think a better way is to use the connection to the power company as a "battery". Use whatever power generation methods you have to generate power when conditions are good (high sun or wind), and sell your excess back to the power company. For solar, this is probably during their peak power times, when rates are highest. Then, when your local generators aren't doing so well (nighttime), you c
  • by Anonymous Coward

    There's ~370 million people in US. Let's assume there are only 100 million phone lines. You pay almost 10$/month in bullshit taxes and fees for every phone line. That's like a billion per month.

    This is allegedly for things like 'universal access'. WTF? For 12 billion per year for the past decade, we should all have fiber to the door with GB internet access.

    Instead, we have a bunch of fat, rich telecom execs and public service government parasites doing something, 'something'? with all that money.

    So

  • ...progressive geeks who believe government should do more than provide military defense...

    Uh, yeah, I can really see a bunch of Slashcrackers over here who want the government to do all the stuff that we're all paranoid that they might--or pissed off that they already--do. This is obviously a troll placed directly on the front page!!!

  • Regressive Taxes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yartrebo (690383) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @10:27AM (#10930882)
    Taxes on phones, or any of the other basics, are highly regressive, and unless there is a good social reason to discourage use of that good (like with energy), it hurts the poor disproportionatly to tax them.

    I see no reason why 911 and other services cannot be supported by a tiny portion of an income or wealth tax. Alternatively, part of an airplane tax+tariff (a CO2 tax or a airplace fuel tax+tariff) could be used to pay for it.
  • 911 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Charcharodon (611187) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @11:00AM (#10931070)
    Duh it's called a property tax. Or God forbid look up the numbers yourself, not like the come screeming in within 2 minutes unless you live in the low crime part of town.

    All US local, state, and federal and I would assume foreign governements cry foul when their distributed tax schemes get consolidated. See we only charge you 1% here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here....sure it adds up to 67% but this tax is only 1% see.

    Now as far as universal service, several cities are trying to do that. Which would provide the poor with near free wireless ISP, cell, and phone service. Of course they are being sued left and right for it.

  • Not (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Cisco Kid (31490) * on Saturday November 27, 2004 @11:03AM (#10931083)
    ... and threatens a similar unregulated storm to the one that eventually caused the AT&T breakup.


    Bzzzt. It wasnt lack of regulation that led to the AT&T breakup - it was lack of competition, eg AT&T was a monopoly, becuase land-based copper is inherently a geographic monopoly, and AT&T just bought up all the small companies. And once a given area was wired, the barriers to entry were just too high (eg, no one could afford to build out their own copper plant) *And*, the breakup did nothing about that geographic monopoly (at least as far as local service was concernerd).. It *did* eventually lead to the current state of long distance, where there is tons of competition (You hear ads for a new 10-10xxx company every few months), rates are low, and consumers are king.

    There is *already* healthy competition in the VOIP industry, and even if larger players buy smaller ones, there is no inherent geographic monopoly to serve as a barrier to entry for new entrants.

    Concerned parties should be more worried about the current state of broadband access, where current telco's and goliath cableco's are forming up a duopoly - one choice for cable, one choice for DSL, and wireless tech has lots of hurdles to clear (literally, getting LOS in a hilly area for more than 100ft is almost impossible)

    • It wasnt lack of regulation that led to the AT&T breakup - it was lack of competition, eg AT&T was a monopoly, becuase land-based copper is inherently a geographic monopoly, and AT&T just bought up all the small companies.

      Bzzt, yourself.

      One of the main reasons AT&T became a monopoly was because telecommunications were nationalized during WW1 for "nation security reasons".

      Claims of "natural monopoly" were used not as a description of the situtation of phone service but to actually justif
      • And breaking AT&T up, only eliminated the long distance monopoly. For local service, all it did was create a handfull of smaller monopolies.

        AT&T owning *all* of the smaller monopolies (as SBC and Verizon have been climbing up to), is a bad thing, but it doesnt change that in a given exchange or city, or town, ownership and operation of the copper lines *is* a natural monopoly, and *should* be regulated. But provision of the calling services, doesnt have to be tied to that monopoly. - Google for 's
  • by BJZQ8 (644168) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @11:05AM (#10931100) Homepage Journal
    Universal Service? Ha! That's the biggest misnomer in the world. It doesn't go to Universal Service for anything but billion-dollar Chicago/New York/Los Angeles school districts to buy roomfulls of Cisco routers they will never use. The whole program shoudl be taken out and euthanized...and the tax abolished forever. It's do-gooders like this that have ruined this country by producing a nanny state that really doesn't do anything but line people's pockets.
  • At the moment I have 5 phone numbers (not counting work ). Two are cellular, two are VOIP, one is a tradtional landline.

    I use Vonage for my primary home phone service, no 911 tax there. I have 2 numbers since I still keep my old AZ number for a while since I've moved. I'm sure both AZ and CA would love to tax me on both numbers.

    My two cellular numbers do have the 911 tax. I only use one at time there.

    My landline has the 911 tax. It's a cheap under $10 a month line for my Tivo ( having that line plus
  • 911 Charges, etc (Score:2, Informative)

    by ReeprFlame (745959)
    911 is now becominig Enhanced 911 [E911] and if I am not mistaken, the FCC or state requires charges too customers for this service. This is definatly required for cell services and would make sense as well to be required for VoIP. Vonage is my current carrier and they charge A few extra bucks a month for maintainance in the 911 field. I do not think that it is much of a problem. Even if companies are not funding it, the company simply routes it to the nearest facility. This facility is usually your lo
  • by peter hoffman (2017) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @12:42PM (#10931633) Homepage

    More and more I am objecting to phrases like "progressive geeks who believe government should do more than provide military defense". Some of us believe more government than the minimum is oppressive and that greatly reducing the size of the government would be progressive (i.e., "progress").

  • by dacarr (562277)
    Where I live, each jurisdiction has its own 911 dispatch center that's part of the police department - which is paid for via property taxes. The fire department has its own dispatch center - which is, again, paid for via property taxes.

    While Orange County CA has a secondary .5% sales tax ("Measure M"), that's for transportation related expenses - public busses, roadways, rail, etc., ad nauseam. That goes into OCTA's [octa.net] pocket. But I digress.

    And when it all boils down, the cities are the ones who most

  • by logicnazi (169418) <logicnazi@gREDHATmail.com minus distro> on Saturday November 27, 2004 @02:48PM (#10932454) Homepage
    This is a silly objection to not regulating VOIP. The costs of allowing regulation of such a technology are far beyond the amount of money paid in taxes (especially for people making free calls) and other sources of revenue can easily be substituted.

    Society has deemed it important to have emergency response centers and 911 service (and I agree) and thus we need to tax people in order to pay for these services. The notion that this tax must be paid by telephone users is based on several misconceptions.

    First we have the misconception that somehow the people who use the service should pay for the service. In many circumstances in private industry this is valid but there is no reason to believe this is true for emergency centers. If we really wanted to adopt this system we could simply charge people when the emergency services arrive after a 911 call. I think the fact most people would find this troublesome, as it discourages those without much money from using emergency services, shows that in this case we really DON'T believe emergency services should necesserily be payed for by those who use them. Rather it is a general societal good and should be paid for through general societal coffers (income tax, property tax).

    Secondly, this rests on the misconception that a phone tax somehow charges the people using the resources appropriately. However, it is quite unlikely that those who have 2 phones are twice as likely to use 911 nor are those who make more calls more likely to use 911.

    In short this issue is a chimera. 911 and other services can be paid for just as fairly using other revenue sources. The reasons to put it on the phone services in the first place was just to hide the tax from the public, they know about it now and we might as well fess up.

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