MyWireless.org: Keeping an Eye on Washington for American Wireless Consumers
By: Amy McLean, MyWireless.org
Wireless technology today changes and evolves at such a rapid and competitive pace, it can be hard for businesses and wireless consumers to stay on top of the latest products, plan options, services or most efficient technology solutions offered by the industry. And that’s just those who pay close attention to the wireless marketplace because of how it affects their bottom line – let alone the lawmakers in Washington D.C., the state capitol buildings and the local mayors’ and city councils’ offices whose motivation to keep up is often to be aware of potential new taxing opportunities. A national, non-profit, non-partisan group called MyWireless.org is standing with you on the side of business and wireless consumers – making it easy for individuals and businesses to stay up-to-date on legislation (at every level) that affects how we use wireless technology in our personal and professional lives. MyWireless.org fights every day to make sure taxes and regulation on wireless are fair and reasonable, and don’t deter people from using technology to gain more convenience and efficiency in their lives.
There are more than 292 million subscriber connections in the U.S., which covers about 92% of the population – and for these Americans their wireless device is a vital mode of communication to connect to coworkers, employees, friends and family in case of emergency. But what many people might not be aware of is that the average American wireless consumer now pays approximately 16% in combined government taxes and fees on their wireless service every month – more than double the tax rate on most other goods and services. Several states are even in the tax range of 20-25% for wireless communication services each month. These excessive taxes not only hurt your pocketbook, but can put an undue burden on the businesses that depend on these services to get the job done by providing their employees with a means of mobile communication, and can deter many Americans from using as much wireless service as they would like. MyWireless.org exists to give consumers and business owners a powerful and unified voice to protect the freedom, value, convenience, security and mobility wireless provides – and when consumers speak up, lawmakers listen.
In 2010 policy fights, MyWireless.org engaged its nationwide wireless consumer database to write more than 100,000 individual letters to Members of Congress in support of the repeal of an outdated I.R.S. tax code law. The ‘M.O.B.I.L.E. Act’ was successfully passed by both houses of Congress, and signed into law by the President as part of his ‘Small Business Jobs Act.’ The old regulation required individuals with a business-provided mobile device to make a detailed monthly tracking record of their personal use of the phone, including calls, emails and texts, and report that usage through their business to the I.R.S. to be taxed. While this law might have made sense back when cell phones were only given as a part of an executive compensation package, or as an expensive luxury item or fringe benefit, it made no sense today when a cell phone is one of the most common tools used to do business. Getting that archaic law off the books was a pro-consumer and pro-business victory for the Congress.
Another glimmer of hope for wireless consumers and businesses that are shouldered with the ever-increasing burden of combined monthly government taxes and fees is the ‘Cell Tax Fairness Act of 2009,’ which is bipartisan (it has more than 200 co-sponsors) legislation that Congress is currently considering before the House Judiciary and Senate Finance Committees. This bill would freeze all new, discriminatory state and local wireless taxes and fees for a period of five years, in order to allow for the federal government, states and localities to take the time to reevaluate and reform their multiple and discriminatory tax policies on communication services. Coalition members of MyWireless.org have also written more than 100,000 individual constituent letters during 2010 to Congress to support this approach.
Along the same tax lines, Congress is also now considering the ‘Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act of 2010,’ common-sense legislation that would establish a set national framework for the taxing of what are known as digital goods and services – such as apps, e-books, games, music and ringtone downloads – at the state and local levels. Currently, no framework exists for the fair taxation of American wireless consumers in this rapidly-emerging interstate online marketplace, and in times of budget constraints at every level, cash-strapped governments and their budgets have taken notice of this increasing revenue opportunity. The legislative measure is designed to prevent a confusing patchwork of 50+ separate tax laws that could unduly burden digital commerce, and consumers, if not addressed.
Keeping track of all the proposed tax, regulatory and communication services laws can be confusing for any consumer, or business, but MyWireless.org offers easy online education tools, federal and state tracking, and action letters to keep you well- briefed. The website provides a ‘one-stop shop’ online hub to keep you informed on what is going on in all areas that you might care about, and allows you to write your government representatives when you have something to say about an issue. You the consumer (as a constituent, and voter) really can impact policy and fight taxes that affect you and your family, and we encourage to join our effort at MyWireless.org, so you can encourage your elected officials at every level to protect the affordability and accessibility of wireless for all Americans.