Senate Hearings Key to Unlocking More Telecom Choices for Consumers, Nation's Largest Taxpayer Group Says

(Washington, DC) -- Thanks to hearings held today before the Senate Commerce Committee, Americans are one step closer to benefiting from legislation to free telecom innovators from the shackles of antiquated regulations: that's the assessment of the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), which supports reforms to encourage greater competition in the video services market.

"Chairman Stevens has done an important service to the cause of consumer choice, by focusing his colleagues' attention on the need to clear away the outdated rules that are stalling one of the next great technological revolutions," said NTU Government Affairs Manager Kristina Rasmussen.

Rasmussen praised Members of the Commerce Committee for their careful consideration of the Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act (S. 1504 sponsored by Senator John Ensign), which would meet many of NTU's goals for achieving a competition-driven marketplace. As introduced, Ensign's bill would set limits on the power of the Federal Communications Commission to impose dictates on mobile services, prohibit states and localities from regulating direct-to-home satellite offerings, and perhaps most important, do away with state and local "franchising" requirements on video services providers.

The franchising process, which Rasmussen called a "relic that belongs to the age of tube-style TVs," would have forced firms wishing to provide options such as Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) to negotiate (often at outlandish fees passed along to consumers) individual business agreements with 30,000+ jurisdictions across the country.

Last year NTU organized an open letter to Congress from 30 national, state, and local citizen groups and think tanks warning lawmakers that, "Local franchise regulations, fees, and taxes on both cable companies and new entrants in the video services market are having the practical effect of impeding the spread of competition, thereby depriving consumers of the economic benefits this process normally provides."

"America is falling behind in the worldwide race to deliver exciting new services like IPTV because of the taxes and regulations that are weighing down potential providers," Rasmussen concluded. "By lifting these burdens, Congress can ensure that these job-creating technologies not only thrive today, but drive our economy tomorrow."

NTU is a non-partisan citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom. Among its many activities in the technology policy debate, NTU has supported making the federal Internet access tax moratorium permanent, advocated repeal of the 3 percent federal telephone excise tax, and actively opposed tax hikes on telecom services in over a dozen states and localities during the past year. Note: For more information, visit