81st Annual Meeting: June 21-24, 2013 in Las Vegas

THE NEED TO PRESERVE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND CONSUMERS RIGHTS IN THE BROADBAND ERA

WHEREAS, mayors support the universal availability of affordable wire line and wireless broadband services; and

WHEREAS, mayors, as the CEOs of local governments, which are themselves significant and sophisticated users of broadband communications technology and eagerly await choice of broadband providers, faster speeds and lower prices; and

WHEREAS, mayors recognize the increasingly vital role broadband wire line and wireless services play in both homeland and hometown security, including economic security; and

WHEREAS, The United States Conference of Mayors’ broadband communications advocacy efforts with Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and the Administration since 2010 has been to call upon the Federal government to:

           Recognize and respect the inherent police powers of local governments, including the right to manage and charge for the use of the public rights-of-way; and

           Require that new technologies bear the same social obligations as the services they seek to replace such as supporting E-911 services, consumer privacy, universal service, PEG programming; and

           Appreciate the neighborhood-by-neighborhood expertise local government brings to overseeing the social obligations, including public safety, broadband deployment, and preventing economic redlining; and

           Homeland and hometown security require the dedication of interference free dedicated interoperable spectrum for first responders; and

           Federal policy must continue to distinguish a tax from a fee for benefit rendered, such as use of the rights-of-way; and

WHEREAS, there are continuing challenges being made to local governments’ real estate, zoning and taxing authority in communications policy at the federal and state level,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that mayors believe the following actions will serve to protect consumers, local businesses and local governments:

           Protect Main Street Merchants and Local Tax Revenues in Internet Age:  Current tax laws favor on-line or remote commercial transactions as opposed to local purchases.  Therefore, The United States Conference of Mayors calls on Congress to adopt legislation such as the Marketplace Fairness Act (S. 336, H.R. 684), so that states might harmonize the tax treatment of transactions conducted on Main Street versus the Internet. The legislative proposal, which requires all sales and use taxes to be collected according to the destination rate, nevertheless protects remote vendors by exempting sellers with less than $1 million in gross remote sales, and bans additional registration, licensing or regulatory requirements; and

           Oppose Efforts to Expand or Make Permanent the Internet Tax Freedom Act:  Expansion or making permanent the Internet Tax Freedom Act would severely limit the ability of local governments to require Internet Access providers from bearing their fair share on social obligations and could jeopardize the relief of the Marketplace Fairness Act offers.  The law is set to expire in November of 2014.  Legislation (S. 31/HR 434) has been introduced to make the ban permanent.  Congress should allow the ban to sunset, but in no case expand or make permanent the ban.  The Internet no longer needs such a safe harbor status; and 

           Protection of Police Powers; Rights-of-Way and the Right of a Fair Return for Use Even By Broadband Users:  Mayors call on Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to reject legislative and  regulatory initiatives to preempt, or otherwise limit, local governments’ ability to manage their rights-of-way, including the ability to demand a fair rental payment for the use of same.  Fairness and the financial health of local governments across the country demand that local governments retain authority to manage and obtain compensation for the use of their rights-of-way.  Included in this compensable use should be broadband services which are not currently paying their fair share of the rent due for use of the community’s assets; and

           Extend or Clarify Consumer Protection to Broadband Services: Mayors call on Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that consumer protections such as privacy rights and rate protection in the absence of real competition are afforded broadband consumers.  The regulatory finding that broadband services are interstate information services has led to claims that broadband consumers are not protected under current consumer protections for non information services, nor state and local level consumer protection standards.  While Mayors do not accept that claim as there are independent bases to provide consumer protections, such ambiguities should be eliminated by Congress and the FCC by affirmatively extending such protections to broadband users; and

           Update Effective Competition Standards: Current effective competition standards are not providing consumers protection against excessive cable rates. Mayors call on Congress to amend the standards to provide meaningful protection.  The General Accounting Office has documented that the only effective competitor to a cable operator is another wireline competitor.  Congress should confine its definition of what constitutes effective competition to the presence of a 2nd wireline provider that is available to a large majority of consumers in a community; and

           Oppose Preferential Tax Treatment for Specific Industry:  Mayors continue to be concerned about efforts at the federal level that would provide preferential treatment to any industry seeking to create its own special immunity from state and local taxation.   Mayors call upon legislators at the federal and state level to reject legislative initiatives to preempt state and local taxing authority on wireless service providers and their property. Adoption of such special-interest legislation would be a disservice to the taxpayers and citizens of the nation by undercutting a community’s ability to bring fairness and equity to our existing tax system; and

           Create/Preserve PEG Jobs by Freeing Up Support:  Mayors call on the Congress to enact legislation to eliminate the unnecessary limits on PEG fund uses so as to create or preserve local jobs rather than limit use to capital costs; and

           Preserve Local Zoning Over Cell Towers:  Mayors call on Congress to clarify that zoning decisions over cell tower sitings are a power reserved to local government, not the FCC.

Projected Cost:  Unknown


RESOLUTION ADOPTED JUNE 2013