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The Internet

Wireless Providers to Pay Universal Service Fees? 218

andyo writes "Mailing lists are abuzz with the news that wireless Internet providers may have to pay fees to support plain old telephone service. My own perspective is at the O'Reilly Network." The Universal Service Fees are taxes set up long ago to assure that telephone service was provided to everyone, even people who it would normally be uneconomical to serve. The theory is a good one, the execution maybe not. (Maybe if the fees went towards Universal Broadband?)
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Wireless Providers to Pay Universal Service Fees?

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  • The Universal Service Fees are taxes set up long ago...

    Which means, they'll get another looking at, now that everything is going wireless. I don't anticipate this being a giant deal for a long time...
  • by freeio ( 527954 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:00PM (#3374833) Homepage
    The local phone service I get (through my cable provider) comes with a bill broken out according to every mandatory fee and tax, and the mandatory fees and taxes are larger then the phone service cost itself.

    Whatever they may be for, the combination of added fees and taxes on phone service is exhorbitant already. Adding them to other net services is just another revenue stream for someone else.

    Phbbbbbt!
  • by blankmange ( 571591 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:01PM (#3374840)
    Unfortunately, this seems to be an old regulation that did its job and then was never updated for how the telco's work now. Nothing new -- we have seen these examples for years now. Update the regulations and make them work for what goes on today and possible tomorrow....
  • by medcalf ( 68293 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:01PM (#3374845) Homepage

    that taxation with representation isn't so hot, either.

    Actually, it's worse than that. This is another form of taxing the unrepresented, since WISPs are unlikely to get the ear of Congress for a redress of grievances, when compared to the telcos who can spit out large amounts of bribes...er, subsidies...er, direct democracy to the Reps and Senators.

  • I'd say this could be a good thing. Hell, I don't even have a land line anymore! When I did, the costs of the fees and taxes simply made a cell phone much more affordable. If there's a fee on cell's now, that might not be true anymore.
  • NO NO NO (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Peridriga ( 308995 )
    My gosh... These things are just simply insane to me..

    This is simple economics....

    There is a market for DSL, wireless, and Cable. The government does not need to stick their foot into this market to make it work. As Adam Smith said, the 'invisible hand' will give these people their last mile connectivity.

    By forcing them to move into market that is not profitable you are simply going to increase the price so that the people that you are trying to help aren't going to be able to afford it. (Not to mention the fact that everyone is at a net loss because of the added tax)

    It IS NOT, repeat IS NOT governments job to force the economy into any position what so ever. If a company can figure out how to make these connections profitable they will, thanks to the 'invisible hand', and the company wins, the consumer wins, the economy wins, and it was all done without a negative effect. So how simple that works.

    Welcome to the world of common sense [lp.org] and Austrian/Mises Economics [mises.org]
    • Gotta disagree (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wiredog ( 43288 )
      'invisible hand' will give these people their last mile connectivity

      Depends on where they are. Some towns are so small that simply running the wire, or even setting up high speed wireless access points, would be uneconomical unless you charged thousands of dollars for the hookup, and a hundred a month for maintenance. And satellite has latency issues.

      • Welcome to the world of a market economy... If it isn't profitable WHY DO IT?!?!?!?...

        And if they want it they can either move (b/c in fact it probably isn't profitable for them to get power/water/sewer w/out the helping hand of the government (at OUR expense mind you))

        Or they can opt-for a Wi-Fi system
        • Is line of sight. Sure, they could move. But then who would grow the food? Society does benefit from their staying out there.
          • The grow food because it is profitable. This does not give them the right to internet access...

            Just like it doesn't give them any other specific right. Why does your job dictate your privledges..

            You having your job doesn't give you any particular rights does it?
            • Re:Wi-Fi (Score:4, Insightful)

              by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:36PM (#3375051) Journal
              Admittedly, there is no "right" to affordable food. Making sure that farmers can communicate and travel at low cost does provide the societal benefit of low food costs.
              • Re:Wi-Fi (Score:1, Offtopic)

                by Peridriga ( 308995 )
                But, then again... Societal rights also give no person a specific right to something more than someone else...

                No matter which way you argue it, you cannot grant someone a right by stepping on someone else....

                Your gonna lose this argument with me, I promise.
          • If it's profitable enough for them to grow food, and they need internet access enough, whoever figures out how to get them access at a price they can afford (through wireless, sattelite, whatever) will rake in the dough -- without any attempts from the rest of us to pay waaay too much to give them access through conventional means.
        • With the big pressure to move government services to the web, soon net access, just like phone access will be a necesity. We (the taxpayers) already subsidize basic phone service for everyone, for emergency services access, 911 etc.
          When your national ID is your US/M$ passport, you'll have to have net access.
        • The problem is that your statement becomes "If it isn't profitable to the dominant market players, WHY DO IT?" CLECs could have competed. In fact, were doing very well providing service cheaper to markets that the ILECs could not profitably have supported. But, they found out that the CLECs could also provide cheaper and better service in the larger, more profitable markets. And as the CLECs took risks and developed smaller markets, the value increased to the point where the ILECs wanted that too.

          So, congress steps in, some judges cover their eyes, and even some legal (but maybe unfair or un ethical) practices help to destroy the competition.

      • Re:Gotta disagree (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Arandir ( 19206 )
        A buddy of mine lives in rural California. By rural, I don't mean Hollywood, I mean a town of 10,000, a predominantly agricultural economy, long distance to the AOL POP, and forty miles to a anything that can truly be called a city. Granted, it's not southern North Dakota, but other than the weather, it's pretty damn close.

        But he's getting better internet connections than I am, and I'm in the middle of Mountain View, home of Netscape, Google and the rest of high-tech culture. You see, he's getting long range wireless, which I don't even have the option for. And he's getting it through a small one-man ISP. The price for his equipment was $500 (including mast router), and $50 a month for the service. That's not bad at all.

        The free market seems to be finding it's way past the last mile to his house.
        • But he's getting better internet connections than I am, and I'm in the middle of Mountain View, home of Netscape, Google and the rest of high-tech culture.
          I don't know that area, but if it's an urban area, the difference between where you live and where he lives is probably that providers in his area don't deal with nearly as much of the bureaucratic bulljive that attends city governments.
      • Depends on where they are. Some towns are so small that simply running the wire, or even setting up high speed wireless access points, would be uneconomical unless you charged thousands of dollars for the hookup, and a hundred a month for maintenance. And satellite has latency issues.

        Exactly why does this make it anyone else's problem except for the people who live in that town? They choose to be there; they can suffer the consequences of that choice.

        Max
    • The problem is that today's business plans seldom exceed a year. By Government forcing them into a market that is too small to show profit within a year, the small markets still get served. The companies want to spread out the cost over many years, so they institute the Universal Service fee.

      BTW, this is not a REQUIRED fee. It is what the FCC allows. The local telco is within their rights to not charge the full ammount, even down to not charging anything.

      Guess how many of them do that.

    • Re:NO NO NO (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ubergrendle ( 531719 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:44PM (#3375102) Journal
      Uh oh, not another IAMAEBSOOTV ("i am not an economist but saw one on tv"). Adam Smith had revolutionary ideas..for a couple of hundred years ago. If Smith nailed everything down so perfectly the first time, why bother having a field of economics now? I mean, everything can be simplified to pure laissez faire market capitalism, right??? Wrong. Unfrotunately there are lots of trends in open markets that defy explanation, or that require much more complex models to explain; things like anti-trust law exist for a good reason, as do keynsian economics, game theory, etc etc. For example, game theory indicates that competition is good, but a clear cut winner is not good.
    • I agree with Peridriga entirely.

      A wealthy American actor by the name of Harrison Ford has his phone taken care of in his Montana property by the USF. There is no need for anyone to pay for anyone else's phone service, let alone a millionaire's.

      People say if we don't pay this fee, people living in the outbacks of the country won't have phone service. Guess what? When you move to the middle of nowhere, you best understand that getting phone lines or electricity will cost you more. That's one of the downsides of living in the middle of nowhere.

      It is unbelievable that so many of you support socialist wealth distribution or price distribution. I would love to find a phone company that doesn't provide service to those in the middle of nowhere, and not charge me to support those who made those decisions, but send the bill to me.

      • For national defense and self-sufficiency, it's
        considered desirable that food be produced
        domestically.

        I'm not saying I agree or disagree, I'm just saying
        that that's behind a lot of government policy.

        As a consequence, when it seems that markets are
        not going to take sufficiently good care of farmers
        for one reason or another, the federal government
        tends to step in.
    • It IS NOT, repeat IS NOT governments job to force the economy into any position what so ever.
      Yes it is. [rnc.org]

    • YES YES YES (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jdcook ( 96434 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @02:14PM (#3375286)
      "There is a market for DSL, wireless, and Cable. The government does not need to stick their foot into this market to make it work. As Adam Smith said, the 'invisible hand' will give these people their last mile connectivity."

      I grant I haven't read all of Adam Smith, but I don't recall anything about "last mile connectivity." That was a joke.

      "It IS NOT, repeat IS NOT governments job to force the economy into any position what so ever. If a company can figure out how to make these connections profitable they will, thanks to the 'invisible hand', and the company wins, the consumer wins, the economy wins, and it was all done without a negative effect. So how simple that works.

      The government cannot help but "force the economy." It is, after all, a huge consumer. This demand helps shape the market. Now there is of course a difference between consuming pencils and gasoline and nuclear triggers on the one hand and planning an economy on the other. But the government has a role there too. The government's job should be to serve its citizenry. If that means that markets do not operate with maximal efficiency, who cares? "The market" is just an abstract concept, a tool that helps us understand how parts of the economy function. It is not something to be a slave to.

      I do not understand this obsession of deeply ideological Libertarians with the capital-M Market. It seems as though it is their deity and that cost efficiency is the only axis on which they measure morality. The logical conclusion of such single mindedness is that if one cent more wealth, in aggregate, will be created by my gutting you like a fish, I am morally obligated to do it. Obviously (I trust and hope) this isn't what Libertarians really want but the most ideological ones don't seem to have any appreciation of nuance.

      If no one can figure out a way to make last mile connections profitably, no one will build them. And no amount of "leave it to the market" mantra will change that. But if people want the connection, why shouldn't the government change the regulatory environment to make it profitable for companies to do so? This is just changing the ground rules for the market. Market forces themselves still exist. Is it possible that the government will do something so stupid that they will make things much worse? Of course. But they might also be able to make the change so that the effects aren't so bad. Does that mean that some person or company will incur costs that they wouldn't have otherwise? Yes it does. But again, so what? Money is not the only value. It is merely the easiest to calculate.

      • Re:YES YES YES (Score:3, Insightful)

        But if people want the connection, why shouldn't the government change the regulatory environment to make it profitable for companies to do so?
        I'm sorry, but you lost me there. I live in a rural area. AT&T Broadband found a profitable way to bring me a high-speed internect connection. Qwest has not found a profitable way to do this, and thus ATTBI is my only option; Qwest has told me flat-out that we will "never" (direct quote) get DSL -- or even POTS faster than 26k -- due to our distance from the switch. And the low rural population density makes it prohibitive for them to build a closer switch.

        Now, why on Earth should the government tax ATTBI enough to make DSL profitable for Qwest? Why should the government tax someone's success to subsidize someone else's failure? With your logic, the government should tax Borders and Barnes&Nobel to subsidize Amazon.com! The government should not be in the business of choosing winners and losers in the marketplace.

      • Re:YES YES YES (Score:3, Insightful)

        by maxpublic ( 450413 )
        I do not understand this obsession of deeply ideological Libertarians with the capital-M Market.

        The odd thing here is that most so-called Libertarians on Slashdot spout their own ideology incorrectly, generally embracing an extremist viewpoint which has more to do with college-kid pseudo-anarchy than actual libertarian ideals. Some don't even realize that the U.S. isn't a free market system, nor even close to one.

        I've noticed that this is true of many 'libertarians' and their opponents (who're equally unequal to the task of researching what a real libertarian is). A battle of wits where both sides are suffering a critical shortage.

        You'll also find this phenomenon amongst Ayn Rand supporters and Ayn Rand opponents. It appears the vast majority have never actual read anything that Ayn Rand has published. Ask them what objectivism is and how it relates to cognitive psychology and watch them draw blanks - despite the fact that objectivism is the root source of much of Rand's observations on economic models and human interaction.

        This has got to be a case of fanatics looking for a cause (and someone else to blame), rather than a cause inspiring fanaticism.

        Max
    • Ok.. I've attemped to defend my position for over 40 minutes now and I've been bailing out the Titanic with a teaspoon..

      I've made arguments against so many socialist in that last 40 minutes you've exhausted me...

      If you disagree with me please read through my thread and read some of my responses...

      If you still don't agree with me and wish to learn more on my position here is a list of reading materials if you are intrested.

      Libertarian Party [lp.org]
      The Mises Institute for Libertarian and Classical Economic Studies [mises.org]
      Free-Market Network (Libertarianism & Economics) [free-market.net]
      A Little Bit Crazy Libertarian Lew Rockwell [lewrockwell.com]

  • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:06PM (#3374868) Homepage Journal
    I was reading the other day that during disasters email tends to work a lot better than the phone. In Bellevue Washington, they're talking about deploying wireless devices to disaster workers. Here's the article:

    http://www.komotv.com/news/story_m.asp?ID=17879

    I can't help but think that this would be a better service to keep running than POTS with the money. Text messages are so much easier to get through than voice.
    • Bear in mind that Bellevue is somewhat largely populated by Microsoft employees. I don't know if I'd like my rescue workers battling BSODs in the midst of an earthquake.
      • "I don't know if I'd like my rescue workers battling BSODs in the midst of an earthquake."

        BSOD's are so... 1995. The only reason I've had one in the last 3 years was due to a crappy mobo. BSOD's virtually disappeared when Windows 2000 came around. (I know, people are going to argue with me. I've had 4 Win2k machines personally, and nearly all my coworkers are running it just fine. You're not going to say anything to convince me that Windows 2000 is garbage.)

        In all seriousness, the phone systems today can *not* handle everybody simultaneously calling their loved ones. I prefer a litte pocket device that acts kind of like ICQ where I can send off a few messages and get beeped when they respond. Surely, that'd be far more reliable in one form or another. My girlfriend has an e-mail pager. If I wasn't already carrying a cell phone, I'd get one of those guys. She prefers it to a cell phone because it's not as intrusive, plus it's a lot smaller. I know I'm sick of my phone ringing.
        • BSOD's are so... 1995. The only reason I've had one in the last 3 years was due to a crappy mobo. BSOD's virtually disappeared when Windows 2000 came around. (I know, people are going to argue with me. I've had 4 Win2k machines personally, and nearly all my coworkers are running it just fine. You're not going to say anything to convince me that Windows 2000 is garbage.)

          I was really going for the slashdot-friendly joke than real commentary. I have been using W2k since February (new job) and it has not crashed on me yet. I usually run it from Monday morning to Friday evening with no problems, though sometimes it has that "could really use a reboot" feeling by Friday.

          Personally, I don't see the appeal of cellular phones. I know, I know, "in case of an emergency." But, you know what? It's an emergency, it's supposed to be bad. That's why we call it an emergency.

          Seriously, I just don't think the peace of mind is worth the hassle of the portable phone. I even hate my cordless phone.

          • "Seriously, I just don't think the peace of mind is worth the hassle of the portable phone."

            I have one instead of a landline. It's kind of neat when:

            - You can call anywhere in the country without extra cost (AT&T One-Rate)

            - Your phone number travels with you

            - Your phone number MOVES with you. (i've moved 3 times in the last 2 years, same #. All I had to change was my mailing address.)

            - You get beeped when you get a voice mail.

            I also use it occasionally for email. I bought a little keyboard doodad for it. Works great when my computer's down, but I'd never use it in lieu of my computer.
  • Federal Government (Score:3, Insightful)

    by faldore ( 221970 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:06PM (#3374871)
    If you read the constitution, there is nothing in there about the federal government having the right to govern communication in any way (the entire point of the FCC). However, there *is* a statement that any function not delineated as an area of federal authority will be the in the jurisdiction of the states. It is unconstitutional for the federal government to mandate such charges.
    • If you took a poll of Americans, most could not even begin to tell you what the 9th and 10th amendments are all about. They are *literally* ignored, 100%, without question.

      Its sad, and I am with you. Vote libertarian. Its the right way.
    • You're kidding, right? Most of the /. community won't even read the articles in this story, and you're asking them to read the Constitution of the United States? This is extremely optimistic.
      • The Bill of Rights is short and punchy.

        Slashdotters seem to me to be very well-informed
        when it comes to the flaws of major bills in Congress
        that affect the Internet, somewhat well-informed
        when it comes to copyrights and patents, and largely
        clueless about all other governmental affairs.

        I'm largely clueless about government business as
        well, but I don't go around making Weighty
        Pronouncements about The Way Things Should Be as
        so many here are wont to do.
    • Hell Yes..

      A Proud Card-Carrying-Member Libertarian...

      Read my above post for an economic point-of-view... I forgot about the constitutional issue..
    • by tps12 ( 105590 )
      The 10th Amendment was effectively nonexistant by the 19th century, IIRC. Jefferson proposed threatening chairmen of the U.S. bank with hanging (as they were committing treason against their states by aiding a "foreign government": the U.S.!). Of course, no one took him seriously, and by the time he took office we were already done for, and he sure didn't help.
    • If you read the constitution, there is nothing in there about the federal government having the right to govern communication in any way (the entire point of the FCC). However, there *is* a statement that any function not delineated as an area of federal authority will be the in the jurisdiction of the states. It is unconstitutional for the federal government to mandate such charges.

      I have read the Constitution. If you've read it recently, then I don't know where you got the idea that the FCC is not Constitutional.

      From Article I, Section 8:
      The Congress shall have Power...

      To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;


      So, yes, the Federal government does have the right to govern communication across State lines, which the Internet and cable certainly are (cable applies, even if the provider resides entirely in one State, because it gets feeds from satellites that cross State boundaries among other reasons).
      • "Commerce" and "communication" are two separate things. The Federal government has decided that *any* endeavor that crosses a state line is under their bailiwick. This clearly does not comply with the spirit the clause, which was originally intended to prevent states from erecting tariffs against one another (among other things).

        Max
    • It's also illegal to prevent states from seceding from the Union. Note, however, that the restrictions on the powers of the Federal government were challenged in 1860, and the challengers lost. Ever since that time the Federal government has done nothing but expand, raise taxes, and increase it's own powers.

      Max
  • by Britano ( 183479 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:10PM (#3374890) Homepage
    When my taxes rise above 50%, I quit and I will live off the Government. simple math, I'm not getting as much as I put in, so I decide to still make a profit.

    Or they could just keep cutting income taxes, and then let the ball start rolling and start cutting other taxes.

    BTW, don't taxes require an act of Congress to be inacted *cough CONSTITUTION cough*

    • Taxes in postwar U.S. and U.K. were > 90% at the highest income brackets ("One for you nineteen for me."). I have to imagine that at that point there wasn't a whole lot of incentive to put any more than the barest minimum effort into one's job. OTOH, tax level doesn't have anything to do with "getting as much as [one] put[s] in." In theory, even 100% tax could benefit you in the form of government services. Of course, I would take the opposite view, that if I can just keep what I earn then I would rather do without these "services."
      • If you only put the barest minimum into your job you won't be staying in the top tax bracket for any great length of time.
      • Yeah, this is one of the reasons Reagan cut taxes and expected revenues to rise. He remembered being an actor, and simply not bothering to act in more than one movie per year, because any additional pay would simply go to the government. If taxes were lower, he would have done more movies, and the government would have ended up getting more from him.


        As it turned out, he was right, taxes on the highest income bracket were too high. Unfortunately, he was wrong about the other income brackets, so net tax revenues fell.


      • Of course, I would take the opposite view, that if I can just keep what I earn then I would rather do without these "services."

        Er...but you don't keep it. You use hired guards called the police to help you keep it.


        I guess now you're going to tell me you don't need the police because you have enough guns to defend yourself...


    • When my taxes rise above 50%, I quit and I will live off the Government. simple math, I'm not getting as much as I put in, so I decide to still make a profit.

      now i am not in favor of high taxes by any means... but you seem to be missing the fact that 50% of $1M is still $500K. you can't pay MORE money than you bring in unless taxes are above 100%. so this "making a profit" nonsense is just that: nonsense.

      when it gets to the point where someone making $20K is being taxed 50%, and "living off the Government" provides more than $10K, THEN start talking.

      -rp
  • You gotta imagine that the broadband ISPs aren't that psyched about this. In an economy where $40-$50 a month for an internet connection is pushing it, how about adding more taxes to the pile.
  • More value (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FurryFeet ( 562847 ) <joudanx@yahoCOMMAo.com minus punct> on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:11PM (#3374896)
    If the fee was applied to provide interner service to people who can't afford it, it would make sense. Also, it would (slightly) be an investment.
    How? Well, there's an old story about how a long time ago, in a small town, there were only two phones: 001 was the Mayor's house, and 002 was the fire department. After a couple of months, the Mayor cancelled his line, since it was idiotic to pay $20 a month to be able to call just the fire department, wheter there was a fire or not.
    The point being: If you have a phone, the value to you is increased as more people have one, since you have that many more potential people to contact. The same principle would apply to internet.
    Sorry for the long rant. I'll shut up now.
    • After a couple of months, the Mayor cancelled his line, since it was idiotic to pay $20 a month to be able to call just the fire department, wheter there was a fire or not.

      If there was a fire, it might be worth it. Assume a fire happens at the mayor's house on average every 200 years. During a fire there is a 5% chance of one of his 10 children dying if the fire department cannot be contacted, but only a 0.5% chance if it can be.

      Then for 200 x $20 x 12 = $48000 he will probably save all 10 children rather than just 1 (work with me here). Are any of your children worth $48000/(10-1) = $5333.33 and 1/3?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The biggest problem with Uiniversal Service Fees is that there is no oversight with regards to how phone companies collect them. The FCC recommends rates [fcc.gov] that telephone companies should use to collect these fees (6.9187% for fourth quarter of 2001 and 6.8086% for first quarter of 2002) but allows telephone companies to set their actual percentages to anything they want. Qwest is already collecting 8.1462% from their DSL subscribers, in addition to rates collected on POTS service, not because it's mandated, but BECAUSE THEY CAN. When they collect more than they need, they pocket it rather than lower the rate. Take a look at your phone bill, people. Then call your state's utilities commission and bitch about it.
  • I don't see a problem with charging a universal service fee for wireless providers. All those people way out in the country still need to have phone service at least, and money to support their service needs to come from somewhere. Charging everyone who uses wireless service is not that much different from charging everyone with wired service; neither one really has any bearing on the connections to remote locations and/or those who cannot afford any service that the service fee goes to support.
  • by kajoob ( 62237 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:15PM (#3374935)
    Not many people know this, but if you simply call the telephone company and tell them that you do not want to pay the Universal Connection Fee then they will remove this charge from your bill. It's more of a goodwill act than a hard and firm charge or law. If the charge on celly's is made under these same auspices, the I believe you could follow suit and just tell them you don't want to pay it.
    • Is any information regarding this "loophole" available on the net anywhere? What if I don't feel like paying gasoline taxes?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Universal Connectivity Charge or Federal Universal Service Fee? I believe you are wrong on both. Unless you fall into a certain income bracket (lower bracket - the people which are being helped by this charge). There is an 800 normally stated on bills explaining just this.
      example: AT&T : 1800-532-2021
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:40PM (#3375081)
      Sounds HIGHLY unlikely:

      http://www.universalservice.org/faqs/#6

      If Universal Service Charges are Applied to My Long Distance Bill, What Options Do I Have?

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) web site offers the following tips for consumers:

      Remember - the FCC does not require your long distance company to place these charges on your bill. Let the company know if you believe these charges are inappropriate or are too high. It's in company's best interest to meet the needs of its customers.
      Companies compete for your telephone business. Use your buying power wisely and shop around. Long distance companies are taking very different approaches to whether and how they are charging their customers to reflect the universal service charges they pay.
      Call other companies and ask if they add these types of charges to their customers' bills. If these charges are added to customers' bills, ask each company to explain how these charges are calculated and exactly what amount would appear on your bill if you decide to use the company's services. Be sure to ask each company about its per- minute rates and special calling plans. You should make sure that you are getting the best deal for the types of calls you place.
      Find the carrier whose combination of per-minute calling rates and any additional charges best meets your needs. For example, if you make a lot of long distance calls you might want to avoid a long distance company that charges its customers for the universal service charge through a percentage of the amount you spend on long distance calls.
      If you have a contract with a telephone company to provide long distance or wireless service, carefully read the contract to determine whether or not the company is allowed to add new charges or surcharges to your bill.
      It is important to remember that: The FCC did not tell companies whether or how to adjust their customers' rates in response to the universal service payments. The long distance and wireless companies have decided what to do, and some companies have implemented charges significantly different from other companies.
    • And would you actually have some links to support that? I can tell you that my local phone company will not take the USF charge off. I can't say about others.
  • Subsidies Blow (Score:3, Informative)

    by White Roses ( 211207 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:15PM (#3374938)
    I wouldn't mind this if we were talking about a federally regulated monopoly (like BT or the Italian phone company), but our government shouldn't be subsidising unregulated industries with taxation laws.

    How does this benefit me now? How does this government taxation, which, like all government taxation, ultimately falls on me to pay, serve my needs as a taxpayer? How hard is it to run a wire out to Sheepdip, Montana? Do the people in Sheepdip really want phone service anyway?

    Isn't the telco cartel profitable enough? And if not, why not let it die? I hate supporting non-viable businesses with my tax dollars enough without supporting viable ones as well.

    If you want to support it with my money, then take it over, and keep them from calling me 3 times a week to see if I want some new widget for me service.

  • Follow the money.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ZoneGray ( 168419 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:18PM (#3374963) Homepage
    This sounds so extremely fishy. Yes it's the FCC, but who would beneift from this? The local telcos, as far as I can tell.

    Wish I could remember the details, but I recall that when the D party took over the Senate, one of the items noted was that the committee that oversees the FCC would now be chaired by a D who's a friend of the Baby Bells; whereas earlier, it had been chaired by an R who favored the long-distance carriers.

    Neither is right, of course. Once again, it begs the question of why a federal agency is trying to regulate the means of communication in a country that has a First Ammendment.

    Oh, I forgot... they deregulated it, so the FCC has to busy itself implementing the deregulation.
    • Yes it's the FCC, but who would beneift from this? The local telcos, as far as I can tell.

      How do you figure? They're only being compensated to make up for the profits they won't get from servicing economically unservicable areas. And any fees tacked onto their service loses them customers. The only people benefitting are the people who live outside of population centers who get a break on their phone service.

  • oh please no (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tps12 ( 105590 )
    The Universal Service Fees are taxes set up long ago to assure that telephone service was provided to everyone, even people who it would normally be uneconomical to serve.

    "Long ago" doesn't necessarily mean good. Slavery was established long ago as well, and we progressed beyond that.

    The theory is a good one, the execution maybe not.

    No, the theory sucks. The execution is no worse than any other immoral, Robin Hood-esque egalitarian scheme.

    (Maybe if the fees went towards Universal Broadband?)

    Go to hell. I don't ask anyone to pay for my Internet access, and I sure as hell don't want to pay for anyone else's.

  • by zulux ( 112259 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:27PM (#3375008) Homepage Journal
    A long time ago, Universal Access fees went to providing service to the small farmer who lived in the middle of nowhere - now days, most of these fees go to stringing wire to fancy houses on the tops of mountains.

    Now, I'm not against the rich, but jesus - if you can afford a 6000 sqare-foot house ot 11,000 feet - then you can afford the wire.

  • *nods in agreement* (Score:5, Informative)

    by RalphTWaP ( 447267 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:29PM (#3375020)
    Well

    Since I know how hard it is to click around and surf down to some responses available on the FCC's site . . . . Here is a link to a sample comment that I found entirely pointed, vitriolic, and frighteningly likely to be an entirely factual account of the practices of ILEC's.

    A sample comment [fcc.gov] [warning: pdf]

    Never fear, it could be that the monopolistic, monolithic, and hide-bound organizations that are our nation's ILEC's will be able, willing, and happy to use this stolen loot (and let us not bandy it about, "taxes" enacted without representation--regardless of what we should call them--represent a destructive theft from the penalized) to provide decent, dependable, and far-reaching service in exactly the spirit of NPRM 02-33.

    Of course, I hear tell that the Dane often returned the gold [216.239.33.100] in the end, but if you should be tired of paying him year after year, perhaps you should investigate alternatives [pbs.org] [warning: Cringely].

  • by Dr_Marvin_Monroe ( 550052 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:43PM (#3375094)
    I don't think it's too much about the money that would be raised, since most small wireless operators are not making very much (if anything, some are free).....I see this really as a way of bringing groups like "Seattle Wireless" and others under governmental control.

    By making every group subject to audits, federal fees and filings, every group can be identified and investigated as needed. That's their hook into you. Kinda like the IRS, where even if you don't make any money, you have to provide them with all of your information and "allow" them to verify it. There's no "opting-out" of the information game.

    I've thought that it was just a matter of time before the government stepped in to regulate this....John Ashcroft can't have people communicating OUTSIDE the system!....How can he get Carnivore around this "wireless thing" if he can't force everyone to fill out forms and obey our regulations?

    The RIAA & MPAA also can't have people communicating outside of ATT and AOL either, who would they sue in a distributed wireless city-net? They couldn't force anyone off the air through their DCMA takedown suits! Although, if you had to have a liscense.....they could take that!...and then force you off the air.....

    The very idea that they would try to do this on an "unregulated" band shows what their intent is. I'd look for further attempts to limit power of WAP's, force a band change (making current units illegal by "out of band") and forcing some type of identification of base-stations. I could imagine some type of system where people would have to "activate" their base-stations by logging into the manufacturer site and giving some personal information or something like that.

    The government's intent is to limit annonymous speech and communication between individuals....they can't do that if we keep jumping out of the cattle chutes that they've errected at all of the big ISP's....

  • Perspective (Score:2, Insightful)

    Whan this tax on phone service was created it was to help farmers and others get phone service. This was needed because no company would touch these areas, including Bell. This was to every one's benefit. City folk could now call their county cousins and country folk could call the fire department when their barn caught fire. Non-monopoly ag has alwaus been a very low profit proposition and it was clear that rural user could not afford the high cost of teleco infrastructure. This was also done for rural electrafication along time ago (by general fund taxes I think). If you don't think you benefit from community civil works than I suggest you move to Chad and see what it's like to live without a real government.
  • by ImaLamer ( 260199 ) <john...lamar@@@gmail...com> on Friday April 19, 2002 @02:31PM (#3375398) Homepage Journal
    Geez man my cousin lived in the downtown/inner city/ghetto area and couldn't get a phone line into his building - no one would install it.

    The telephone companies coporate offices are about 10 (actually 8) blocks away. There is apartments 6 blocks away with T1 lines to the highest priced apartments.

    The problem is the tax doesn't get paid back. At least the money doesn't trickle down. The problem was that he lived in a building which never had service - they refused to setup the line (drop it into the window?) without funds from the city which "weren't there".

    He was willing to pay for everything except what they (the company) has to pay by law. So we collect tax and it's not even paying to get real customers! I feel sorry for people who need 911 services but can't get a phone. It's been ruled here in my city that 911 is a right because it's funded by taxes.

    The problem was the pay phone was always being used by crack dealers. But for some reason it was only 20 cents so maybe it all works out?

    We just figured the police paid the other 30 cents and listened in...

    [the moral of this story is that sometimes taxes are good. if the funds are used right it might get people back into market (or whatever). the error isn't in the amount of taxes we take, the error is that we don't try to stretch it as far as we can. know where investments are[
  • by cyberformer ( 257332 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @03:46PM (#3375827)
    Unfortunately, it isn't the wireless providers that pay the fees. They collect the fees, but the customer pays them.


    Most companies trey to pass costs on to their customers in some way, of course, but this is more than that. The fee actually appears as a separate item on the phone bill, and is never included in the advertised prices. Customers don't know how large it will be until they get the bill (and with a cell phone, the long contract length makes it then too late to change).


    What's even worse is that many phone companies actually like to collect this tax, because a loophole in the law allows them to tack on an arbitrary collection fee (pure profit), which is not distinguished from the tax itself on the bill. This makes the tax appear to be even higher than it really is.

    It's exactly the same as if the grocery store decided to charge you double sales tax, and you didn't find out about it till after you got your receipt.

Money is the root of all evil, and man needs roots.

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