The Natural Art of the Government Shakedown

By Seton Motley

“Human nature” – actually applies to way more than just humans.

Gazelles – like to consume vegetables.  It’s their nature.

Trending: Report: Search Site DuckDuckGo Hands User Data Over to Google

Cheetahs – like to consume meat.  It’s their nature.

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Governments – like to consume constituents.  It’s their nature.

Seventh century B.C. Greece’s philosopher Aesop – understood it way back when.

Timeless wisdom – is timeless for a reason.

Government consumes constituents in as many ways at it can conceive.  But it all comes down to laws-regulations – and taxes.

Laws-regs consume our lives – taxes tax them.

You can’t do ANYTHING – without permission from government.

And you can’t do ANYTHING – without paying government for the privilege.

(If you do NOTHING – government lets you do whatever you want.  And has a wide array of ways to pay you.  But analyzing this insanity – is for another day.)

We the Sane like limited government at all levels.  We the Sane also like the proper distribution of limited government power amongst the levels.

We’re adults – we can handle almost everything ourselves.  No government should be doing very much at all.

The federal government should do the league minimum – only what the states and localities can not handle for everyone.  The states and localities should handle more – but very little more.

Because when a particular government gets out of its lane – serious problems ensue.

To wit: The World Wide Web:

“Get that first word – ‘world.’  We again check with Merriam Webster:

“‘The earth with its inhabitants and all things upon it.’

“Like with immigration, this clearly means the Internet’s rule and regulation – is a federal government prerogative.

“Just like with immigration, there are very many reasons the Constitution insists the Internet is federal – whether the fore-thoughtful Forefathers realized all of them or not.”

When states and localities dictate oppressive Internet laws-regs and taxes – they very quickly create global problems for US:

“We are currently in a race with Communist China to be first to the Fifth Generation (5G) wireless Internet.

“If Communist China were to beat us to 5G wireless – it would be bad for our economy.

“If Communist China were to beat us to 5G wireless – it would be VERY bad for our national security….

“Our nation’s provincial governments are very often…provincial.  In thought and deed. When they mess with (inter-)national issues – their provinciality is often highly damaging to our nation.

“Which of course means provincial officials are more than happy to eviscerate the Constitution’s federalism and damage our national policy – when it means taking more money from us.”

What’s good Internet policy?  Less government – to allow more Internet.  To improve our economy – and our national security.

Want Cheaper, Better Internet?  Limit the Local Government Shakedowns of Internet Providers:

“(Internet Service Providers) ISPs show up in your area – looking to spend millions or billions of dollars to build or improve their service to you.

“But before they can do that – they must first play ‘Mother May I’ with the government(s) in your area.

“You know, the governments that are already taxing the living daylight out of ISPs. That now create ridiculous lists of additional demands of ISPs – for the ISPs’ ‘right’ to spend millions or billions of dollars providing you service.

“It’s like very many governments going shopping – with the ISPs’ credit cards….

“The number of cities and towns making…ridiculous demands is staggering. The wide variety of these ridiculous demands is mind-numbing.

“All of which are geared by government – to find new and additional ways to extract ever more money from the ISPs.”

And as the last two decades-plus have incessantly demonstrated:

Unless the federal government limits the shakedowns in which state and local governments can engage – there are no limits to the shakedowns in which state and local governments will engage.

As but one example – of oh-so-very-many?  Pole attachment fees.  Electricity utilities charge rent – for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to attach their lines to utility poles.

ISPs only attach to a pole once – then their line just hangs there.  So the monthly charge is…bizarre.  But leaving that aside….

Local governments often try to charge said monthly pole attachment fee – for each service an ISP provides.  Even if the ISPs’ various services – Internet, television, phone, etc. – all travel through the same line…with the same single pole attachment.  That’s not corrupt or anything.

And if you don’t limit what utilities tax for pole attachments – the sky’s the limit for utilities’ pole attachment taxes.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – under Section 224 of the 1996 Communications Act – limits the pole attachment taxes…for investor-owned utilities.  But does NOT limit the pole attachment taxes for municipal or co-op utilities.  So guess what happens?

Former FCC Chief Economist Michelle Connolly wrote a report: “The Economic Impact of Section 224 Exemption of Municipal and Cooperative Poles.”  In which she contrasts the tax-limited pole attachment taxes – with the unlimited pole attachment taxes.  Guess what happens?:

“Municipal and co-op pole attachment rates – are more than double or triple the rates charged by investor-owned utilities.”

Get that?  Government decided privately owned utilities have their pole attachment taxes limited.  But government-owned and pseudo-government-owned utilities…do not.

Why won’t sharks eat a flotilla of submerged attorneys?  Professional courtesy.

But every dollar ISPs have to pay in ridiculous pole attachment taxes…is a dollar they can’t spend on getting us better Internet – and to 5G prior to China.

Report author Connolly – does the pole attachment tax math.

Poles are spaced out – at eighteen per mile.

The tax-limited investor-owned pole attachment tax – is $6.84 per pole.  Which is $123.12 per mile per year.

The tax-unlimited municipal pole attachment tax – is $14.86 per pole.  Which is $267.48 per mile per year.  Or 117% more than the tax-limited tax.

The tax-unlimited co-op pole attachment tax – is $15.39 per pole.  Which is $277.02 per mile per year.  Or 125% more than the tax-limited tax.

Because human nature – is human nature.  And government nature – is government nature.  Government – is consuming constituents.

And lest we forget – the US is a very big place:

“The United States has a horizontal width of approximately 2,680 miles and a vertical distance of 1,582 miles.”

The US – is a VERY big place:

“The land area of the entire United States is approximately 3,800,000 square miles.”

Those pole attachment taxes – pile up in a great big hurry.

We’re not saying there shouldn’t be pole attachment taxes.

We’re saying there shouldn’t be ridiculous pole attachment taxes.

Congress should amend Section 224 of the 1996 Communications Act – to limit ALL pole attachment taxes.

Because equal protection before the law.

Seton Motley created Less Government to reduce the size, scope and sphere of influence of government. At each and every level of government. Wherever government is found.

Seton Motley is the founder and president of Less Government. He is a consultant, writer, television and radio commentator, political and policy strategist, lecturer, debater, and activist.

Please feel free to follow Motley on Twitter and Facebook.

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