In yet another attempt to change the law in a manner of dubious constitutionality, President Barack Obama is pressuring the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to hike a telecommunications fee to help pay for high-speed Internet access in schools.
Obama’ s proposal, known as ConnectEd, was announced in June but went largely unnoticed because the story of the National Security Agency’s widespread surveillance of Americans was breaking at the time.
In a June 6 speech at Mooresville Middle School in Mooresville, North Carolina, Obama said, “Today, I am directing the Federal Communications Commission … to begin a process that will connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed broadband Internet within five years.”
Obama claimed that about 20 percent of American students have access to high-speed Internet in the classroom while 100 percent of South Korean students have such access.
“In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee,” he asked, “why shouldn’t we have it in schools?”
There is, of course, a big difference between free Wi-Fi at Starbucks and “free” Wi-Fi in schools under Obama’s plan: Starbucks pays for the network itself out of the proceeds of its sales to willing consumers; Obama would pay for school networks by forcibly extracting the money from cellphone users.
According to the Washington Post, the White House estimates the program will cost $4 billion to $6 billion, which “could work out to about $12 in fees for every cellphone user over three years,” after which the fee hike is supposed to end. But considering how many other supposedly temporary taxes have become more or less permanent — a telephone tax instituted to pay for the Spanish-American War remained in effect, with occasional respites, for the next 104 years and still has not been fully repealed — there is good reason to fear that the Obama phone tax would not go quietly into the night.
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