New Study Reveals That Wireless Taxes Continue To Rise

A new report by economist Scott Mackey and the non-partisan Tax Foundation shows that the excessive rate of wireless taxation on American consumers is on the rise across the country.

The national average rate for wireless taxes jumped from 17.05 percent to 17.96 percent. Washington State once again has the highest combined wireless tax rate, which now exceeds 25 percent. Florida (21 percent) dropped from the 4th highest taxed state to 7th thanks to a reduction to state’s Communications Services Tax. Seven other state’s now join Washington and Florida with rates in excess of 20 percent (Nebraska, New York, Illinois, Missouri, Rhode Island, Arkansas and Pennsylvania).

Some of the report’s main findings include:

  • On average, American consumers are now taxed at a rate of nearly 18% in federal, state and local fees on wireless service.
  • The average rates of taxes and fees on wireless phone service are more than double the average sales tax rate.
  • Wireless consumers annually pay about $5.8 billion in excess of the normal state and local sales taxes imposed on the purchase of other goods and services. This is in addition to $5 billion in Federal Universal Service Fund surcharges.
  • Excessive wireless taxes and fees disproportionately impact poor families, many of whom rely on wireless as their main form of communication.

And here are this year’s top ten highest taxed states for wireless:

  1. Washington – 25.15%
  2. Nebraska – 24.99%
  3. New York – 24.36%
  4. Illinois – 23.92%
  5. Missouri – 21.25%
  6. Rhode Island – 21.16%
  7. Florida – 21.12%
  8. Arkansas – 20.77%
  9. Pennsylvania – 20.60%
  10. Kansas – 19.99%

(See the full rankings here)

Wireless taxes are discriminatory and regressive – they hit seniors, minority communities, working families and small businesses especially hard. It just seems unfair to target a service that we rely on for business, education, entertainment, healthcare, Internet access, personal communication, public safety – and everything in between, with such a disproportionate tax. This is especially true for the 45 percent of American households who only have wireless telephones.

State lawmakers should follow Florida’s lead and look for opportunities to reduce these high rates on a service that is so essential to our daily lives.



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mHealth is a game-changer

Last week, The Wireless Foundation hosted the “Mobile Health & Wellness Expo” at the FCC and FDA to showcase the latest and greatest life-changing (and in some cases life-saving) health innovations from wireless industry and tech entrepreneurs. Opening the event, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said, “Innovative technologies and wireless broadband are completely changing when, how, and where medical care takes place allowing more care to and from the most remote of places and to and from the most advanced clinical epicenters.” In prepared remarks, FDA Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff added, “These new mobile technologies promote healthy living by allowing more people to manage their own health and wellness. And they provide people access to useful information when and where they need it.”

As the commissioners pointed out, the innovations displayed at the expo reflect a promising future in which everything from managing chronic conditions and real-time diagnoses, to maintaining healthy lifestyles, are commonplace. It is important to point out that mobile health (or mHealth) encompasses not only high-tech devices or services and the leading medical professionals who use them, but also the wireless infrastructure and devices such as smartphones or tablets that consumers like you and I rely on daily, from anywhere at any time.

mHealth is already a mainstay of our daily lives. According to Pew Research Center, two-thirds of smartphone owners are already using their phones for mHealth information.  IMS Health Institute also points out that there is already a wide range of over 165,000 mHealth apps in the marketplace – and over 90 percent of the mHealth apps are free. The anticipated growth of the space is staggering as well, with projections of the telemedicine and mHealth markets potentially valued at over $45 billion by 2021.

These wireless innovations will all require faster and more robust networks to carry high volumes of data very quickly. CTIA President Meredith Attwell Baker highlighted this point in a recent op-ed in WirelessWeek where she wrote:

Wireless connectivity already touches every aspect of daily life, but we are just scratching the surface. Sensors in smart cities will determine optimum traffic routing, easing congestion and helping protect the environment. Intelligent lighting will illuminate evacuation routes in buildings. Connected wheelchairs will increase users’ independence. This is the promise of the next generation of mobile networks, known as 5G.

Achieving better health outcomes will require a combination of network innovation toward 5G services, bringing more licensed spectrum online to handle network volume, and guaranteeing a regulatory environment that encourages the continued deployment of the wireless broadband upon which  mHealth is depends.

The true game-changer in mHealth is the device you already own that can connect you to the world’s best services and specialists. It is crucial that lawmakers and regulators at the federal, state and local levels do their part to encourage the growth of this vital space and avoid placing barriers on the wireless devices and services consumers depend on.


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California moves to boost wireless service for consumers

We have some good news for California wireless consumers!

Last week, California Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 57 (AB 57) into law, guaranteeing a timely review process for wireless infrastructure permitting and deployment. Up to now, the permitting process for wireless infrastructure was very slow – and in some cases could take years. Such delays were harmful for the Golden State’s 36 million wireless subscribers who rely on their devices and networks for everything from access to wireless broadband, communicating with family and friends, education, entertainment and potentially lifesaving services such as healthcare and public safety. For these consumers – especially the 1 in 3 California households that are wireless only – an efficient decision-making process on wireless infrastructure build-out and improvements is essential.

Reports from Cisco reveal that wireless data usage has skyrocketed over the past few years and will continue to rise sharply through end of the decade. Wireless will increasingly become the primary gateway to the Internet, a main hub for businesses growth and opportunity, consumer transactions and other vital life services. To meet these current and future demands, the wireless industry must continuously build out and upgrade their networks.

The provisions within AB 57 simply follow federal guidelines established by the FCC which establishes a “shot clock” timeline for wireless infrastructure permitting decisions by localities. Thanks to the passage of AB 57, localities are simply required to adhere to these “shot clock” timelines within 150 days of receiving an application for a new wireless tower development, for example. It is also important to point out that while AB 57 ensures existing federal law is being followed, localities retain full authority to approve or deny infrastructure permit applications as well as craft or enforce their own ordinances regarding the placement, construction and modification of towers. And, California is just the latest in a list of several states that have chosen to affirmatively adhere to these federal timelines.

We thank the Governor and legislators for their leadership in passing AB 57 and supporting the growing service needs of California’s wireless consumers.


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Congress temporarily extends Internet access tax ban

Just as time was running out, Congress passed a continuing resolution, which – among a handful of other provisions – will extend the ban on Internet access taxes through December 11th. As you may recall, the ban on Internet access taxes was due to expire on October 1st. We commend Congress for recognizing the importance of this issue. However, the continuing resolution is only a short-term fix.

Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives made a move to permanently extend the ban on Internet access taxes by passing the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (H.R. 235). Unfortunately the Senate has yet to take up the companion legislation, known as the ‘Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act’ (S.431).

The ban on Internet access taxes was originally put in place in 1998 and incrementally extended by Congress over the years to encourage the continued expansion of Internet use. Last year, CTIA – The Wireless Association found that the decision to keep Internet access tax free led to more than $34.4 billion in savings for Americans – and that doesn’t even account for the benefits the Internet provides on how we communicate, learn and conduct business.

If the Internet access tax ban expires, the high state and local taxes that are already applied to wireless service could be expanded to include Internet access, increasing the cost of service. This despite the fact that the FCC National Broadband Plan says that cost is the largest barrier to consumer broadband adoption.

We urge Congress to address this issue once and for all by enacting a permanent ban on Internet access taxes before the December 11th deadline. We can’t afford anything less.



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51 U.S. Senators support Internet Tax Freedom (Do yours?)

Earlier this summer, without a single dissenting vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (H.R. 235) to permanently extend the ban on Internet access taxes that is set to expire on October 1st of this year. The focus is now on the Senate where the companion legislation, known as the ‘Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act’ (S.431), is being considered with less than two months to go before time runs out.

The ban on Internet access taxes was originally put in place in 1998 and incrementally extended by Congress over the years to foster and encourage the continued expansion of Internet, which is now a critical gateway to education, healthcare, jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Internet access allows Americans from all walks of life to equally participate and compete in today’s global economy.  Unfortunately, if the Internet access tax ban expires, the high state and local taxes that are already applied to wireless service could be expanded to include Internet access, increasing the cost of service. This despite the fact that the FCC National Broadband Plan says that cost is the largest barrier to consumer broadband adoption.

Luckily, the ‘Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act’ has the broad support over half of the Senate, with Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) sponsoring the bill, along with 50 other bipartisan cosponsors. However, more support is needed to ensure that the bill passes.

The Senators that are NOT currently supporting the Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act are listed below, along with their Facebook pages and Twitter handles. Take a minute to tell each of them on Facebook and Twitter to support the ‘Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act’ today, become a cosponsor, and pass this much needed legislation to ensure that the Internet remains accessible for all and unhindered by discriminatory taxes!

U.S. Senators NOT currently supporting the Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act (S. 431)
Jeff Sessions [R]
Richard Shelby [R]
Barbara Boxer [D]
Dianne Feinstein [D]
Michael Bennet [D]
Richard Blumenthal [D]
Chris Murphy [D]
Tom Carper [D]
Bill Nelson [D]
Mazie Hirono [D]
Brian Schatz [D]
Dick Durbin [D]
Rand Paul [R]
Bill Cassidy [R]
Angus King [I]
Ben Cardin [D]
Barbara Mikulski [D]
Elizabeth Warren [D]
Debbie Stabenow [D]
Al Franken [D]
Amy Klobuchar [D]
Claire McCaskill [D]
Ben Sasse [R]
Harry Reid [D]
Cory Booker [D]New
Bob Menendez [D]New
Martin Heinrich [D]New
Tom Udall [D]New
Kirsten Gillibrand [D]New
Thom Tillis [R]North
Heidi Heitkamp [D]North
John Hoeven [R]North
Sherrod Brown [D]
James Lankford [R]
Bob Casey [D]
Jack Reed [D]Rhode
Sheldon Whitehouse [D]Rhode
Mike Rounds [R]South
Lamar Alexander [R]
Bob Corker [R]
John Cornyn [R]
Orrin Hatch [R]
Bernie Sanders [I]
Tim Kaine [D]
Mark Warner [D]
Maria Cantwell [D]
Joe Manchin [D]West
Tammy Baldwin [D]
Mike Enzi [R]




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