I took it upon myself to do a little research relating to telecommunications taxation in Wisconsin. The best place to start was the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
One thing I knew for certain is on my Internet Service Provider (ISP) monthly bill is a Universal Service Fund tax from the state. While this tax is mandated from the state for telecom service providers, they are allowed to charge back this tax on their monthly bills to us. It reminds me of the old saying; “Corporations don’t pay taxes, people do.”
Calls to the DOR lead me to numerous call transfers, emails and playing “telephone tag” for information. I wanted to know the process for local assessment and state assessment. All of this is intertwined with my support of Dunn County’s commitment to better broadband service for its rural citizens. When it comes to broadband in the rural areas of this state, we are second class citizens.
Did you know that telecom/telephone taxes at the state level go into the general fund? Those of you not familiar with accounting term, it’s called General Purpose Revenue — the state can use this funding for whatever is needed and is not dedicated to any one purpose.
The amount for FY 2016 for the telephone companies/ISPs was $76.5 million. I asked the DOR person why is this money going into a general fund when it is known that broadband service in the rural areas of this state is a huge problem and what is needed to change the current policy.
While the State Broadband Office supplies grants through the Public Service Commission and works with telecommunications vendors operating in this state, the funding level doesn’t meet the need.
The solution seems simple enough. The rural areas of the state need to contact their elected officials they sent to Madison and tell them to create a bill addressing this situation. These general fund dollars need to go to a segregated fund dedicated to the state’s broadband problem.
Some of our current elected officials we sent to Madison are up for reelection in 2018, and some of them stated that broadband was a key part of their platform when they ran for office in 2016.
TERRY NICHOLS, Town of Colfax