The Regulatory Mix, TMI’s daily blog of regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of a TMI Briefing.
The U.S. Senate passed H.R. 644, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 conference report, which includes a provision to ban Internet access taxes, by a vote of 75-20. The bill protects consumers from higher taxes on Internet service by adopting the Thune-Wyden “Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act”, which prevents state and local jurisdictions from imposing taxes on Internet access and multiple and discriminatory taxes on e-commerce. The bill also included a four-year grandfather provision for the seven states that currently tax Internet access. After the bill’s passage, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) issued the following statement: “The passage of this bill is a victory for the Internet, entrepreneurs and consumers,” said Thune. “Keeping the Internet tax free is key to our efforts to connect more Americans to the Internet, particularly in rural areas, and to advance to the next generation of connectivity. Passage of this legislation creates an immediate new incentive for investment in broadband infrastructure in areas lacking high-speed broadband.” President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law shortly.
FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Reilly both issued statements on passage of the bill. Commissioner Pai said, in part, “This confirms a national consensus that state and local taxes on Internet access should be taken off the table once and for all. These taxes would make (and in some places already have made) broadband more expensive, reducing consumers’ ability and willingness to get online. This, in turn, would reduce private sector investment in deploying broadband, especially in rural areas, and inhibit entrepreneurship.” Commissioner O’Reilly said, in part, “Having been integrally involved in the Internet Tax Freedom Act for many years, I am ecstatic that Congress is making it permanent and eliminating the exemptions. This is great news for American Internet consumers. By preventing state and local taxes on Internet access and double taxation, it marks a firm path for future Internet policies.”
Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology passed the three bills that it considered on February 11, 2016. H.R. 2666, The No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act, would prevent the FCC from regulating the rates charged for broadband Internet. H.R. , The Small Business Broadband Deployment Act, would make the FCC’s temporary exemption from the enhanced disclosure rules for small businesses permanent and would define a small business as a provider of broadband Internet access service that has not more than 1,500 employees or 500,000 subscribers. H.R. 1301, The Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2015, would boost amateur radio use by instructing the FCC to adopt rules to protect the rights of amateur radio operators to use amateur radio equipment.
The Public Service Commission initiated a rulemaking docket to consider revisions certain sections of the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR). If adopted, the revised rules will establish new regulations that provide additional termination of service notice provisions, in certain circumstances, to better serve customers, the utilities, and the PSC. A copy of the proposed regulations may be accessed from the PSC’s web page www.psc.state.md.us, in the electronic case jacket for this docket RM 57. Comments are due by February 24, 2016. In addition, the PCS will conduct a rule making session on February 29, 2016, to consider whether to publish the proposed COMAR revisions as drafted or revised based on comments received.