WASHINGTON D.C. — FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today proposed a plan that would increase the size of E-Rate subsidies for broadband for schools and libraries from $2.4 to $3.9 billion per year — funded by increased (involuntary) “contributions” from telephone subscribers. TechFreedom President Berin Szoka offered the following comment:

Republican FCC Commissioners tried to negotiate with the Chairman back in July. Their proposals would have made more E-Rate funds available for the schools and libraries that need it, simplified the byzantine application process, and given them more spending discretion — without raising taxes on consumers to pay for it. But the Chairman, in his increasingly typical partisan and autocratic style, simply ignored their suggestions in favor of the typical Washington answer: higher taxes instead of fixing a broken, bloated program.


Unfortunately, Tom Wheeler’s 17.2% tax hike on phone bills may be just a sign of worse to come. If the Chairman does what President Obama has urged him to do, reclassify broadband as a Title II public utility, the FCC will soon start taxing broadband, too — an estimated $87/year per broadband household.


Wheeler’s proposed $1.5 billion E-Rate expansion has been called a ‘desperately needed investment in America’s future’ If only the FCC cared half as much about ensuring that private investment in broadband keeps flowing! Last year, broadband providers poured $75 billion into the networks that connect America’s homes and businesses as well as schools and libraries. President Clinton’s FCC understood that the “morass” of Title II would discourage private investment, leaving us all dependent on the government — and hurting the underserved most.


To paraphrase President Reagan, the FCC’s view of broadband is becoming increasingly clear: “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

Szoka can be reached for comment at media@techfreedom.org, and see our other work on E-Rate, including:

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TechFreedom is a non-profit, non-partisan technology policy think tank. We work to chart a path forward for policymakers towards a bright future where technology enhances freedom, and freedom enhances technology.