The strength of MyWireless.org is the hundreds of thousands of wireless consumers who have joined the group and taken action because they believe in fairness, common sense regulations, and their wireless freedom. Since 2005, the efforts of MyWireless.org have helped save American wireless users billions of dollars in unnecessary wireless taxes and fees. Their willingness to stand up and tell their elected officials what they believe is making a difference, and we’re thankful for the continued interest in keeping wireless affordable and accessible for everyone, and encourage you to join us if you haven’t already.
Here are some of the highlights of our past accomplishments. We urge you to keep up the fight both at the national level and in the states as we continue to fight excessive and discriminatory wireless taxes, fees and regulations.
- The Maine Legislature considered an increase to the State Universal Service Fund fee that would have doubled the amount Mainers paid on their monthly wireless, landline and/or digital phone bills. MyWireless.org conducted a bipartisan survey in the state which showed majority opposition across the board to increasing the fee and wide majority support for capping it. The survey findings were released, and legislators decided to hold the bill over until next year.
- In 2009, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that all intangible personal property, including digital goods like apps, games and ringtones purchased with a wireless device, was subject to property taxation. MyWireless.org encouraged wireless consumers in Oklahoma to support a ballot measure in the November 2012 general election that was successful in overturning the harmful tax on businesses and families.
- Lawmakers in Washington State were considering legislation that would allow counties to add a six percent local utility tax to residents’ cellphone bills. Consumers in Washington already pay some of the highest wireless taxes in the nation. MyWireless.org conducted a bipartisan survey that showed nearly 80 percent of Washington residents were against the tax hike. We also urged our supporters to speak out on the issue. As a result, the provision was removed from the legislation and Washington consumers were spared the unfair tax.
- The ‘Wireless Tax Fairness Act’ (H.R. 1002) passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and its companion bill (S. 543) is currently being considered in the U.S. Senate. If passed, it would protect consumers from new, discriminatory state and local wireless taxes and fees for five years.
- Wireless taxes in Nebraska are the highest in the nation, in part because cities can add a municipal tax on communications services called a ‘Business and Occupation Tax’ that is on top of the state and local sales taxes. Lawmakers proposed a limit on these excessive fees and we encouraged Nebraska voters to speak up in support. As a result, lawmakers put a cap on the maximum B&O taxes on communications services so that consumers won’t have to pay more on the already high B&O tax in the future.
- The Rhode Island legislature considered including a new tax on digital goods and services in their annual budget. MyWireless implemented a campaign asking Rhode Island wireless consumers to call and write their legislators to oppose this new tax. Consumers and MyWireless 3rd party affiliates spoke up and the tax was removed from the annual budget measure that was passed.
- Small business legislation (H.R. 5297) was signed into law, relieving millions of Americans and small businesses from having to track personal use of work-provided cellphones to report to the I.R.S. for taxation as “Listed Property.” Before it was added to the larger bill, this legislation was called the ‘MOBILE Cell Phone Act of 2009’ and we strongly supported its passage.
- The state of New York proposed a wireless tax hike in their budget that threatened to cost consumers $100 million. We organized a campaign to make New Yorkers aware of their lawmakers’ intentions. Consumers wrote their legislators numerous letters and e-mails that helped ultimately block the attempted tax hike.
- Officials in Prince Georges County, Maryland, proposed a new sales tax and use tax on landline and wireless consumers that would have cost $17 million. We worked with our partner organizations to mobilize county residents and ensure the increase was put to a vote. When citizens took to the ballot, it was defeated by a majority of 72%.
- We supported and Congress passed the ‘Internet Tax Freedom Act of 2007’ (H.R. 3678) that was later signed into law. It extended a seven-year moratorium on multiple, discriminatory taxes on online purchases that had previously been targeted for revenue by state and local tax jurisdictions. It is set to expire in 2014.
- Michigan lawmakers threatened to pass a bill that included a regressive $0.81 phone tax on citizens across the state that would have created $110 million in new phone taxes. We built a coalition of concerned citizens who contacted their lawmakers and helped counter tax proponents and defeat the new tax.
- Cook County, Illinois lawmakers proposed a $4 per month tax on telecommunications services that would have cost consumers $175 million. We built a coalition, the NoPhoneTax.org alliance that included 90 other partner organizations. We helped persuade lawmakers to oppose the new tax and the county abandoned the tax increase effort.
- Texas consumers were already facing the nation’s fifth-highest wireless taxes, partly due to the unfair and outdated Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund (TIF) fee. We organized a statewide campaign to repeal the fee that drove thousands of consumers to contact their legislators. This resulted in a win that saved consumers more than $600 million over three years.
- We fought to repeal the 1890’s-era 3% monthly Federal Excise Tax (FET) or ‘Tax on Talk’ that had existed since the Spanish-American War. It was originally enacted to help pay for the war, but was never taken off the I.R.S. tax books after the war’s conclusion. Our efforts targeted key lawmakers and officials which sparked a series of court battles. After five appeals courts declared the tax illegal, the U.S. Treasury Department stopped collecting it and refunded nearly $15 billion to taxpayers.
- Lawmakers in Louisiana proposed a new, statewide 2% tax on wireless services. We built a successful opposition push that generated hundreds of calls to state legislators and turned the proposed tax into a major point of discussion on local tax radio. The bill, that would have cost consumers and additional $49 million in taxes, was voted down 71 to 26.
- The Portland, Oregon, City Council was about to pass a new 5% utility tax on wireless service when we pulled together a rapid-response effort to rally thousands of consumers and local advocates against the tax. As a result, the city council quickly abandoned what would have been an $11 million new tax on consumers.
- We helped generate thousands of consumer phone calls and emails to Missouri legislators as part of a campaign in support of legislation that would cap city taxes on wireless and prevent retroactive local taxes. This successful effort helped save consumers $300 million.