In response to Gazette’s article (News, LeighAnne Manwarren, “Toll-free fee”) on March 10, I am writing to address the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s vote to table the toll-free calling proposal until Jan. 19, 2011.
The Oklahoma chapter of Americans for Prosperity and others successfully rallied Oklahomans to ward off adding more fees to your phone bill, but the fight is, apparently, not over. Commissioner Bob Anthony has stated the proposal to grant toll-free calling for the state needed time to cool off before a vote. There are a few problems with the cooling-off idea.
First of all, let’s remember that the “toll-free” calling plan provides only a slight benefit for the decreasing number of landline users in Oklahoma, while increasing the costs and providing a redundant service for the roughly 90 percent of Oklahoma consumers who use cell phones. A cooling-off period will not erase the fact that this plan is a tax hike and unwarranted. Painted as deficit-neutral in the aggregate, the $3.19 monthly fee to each telephone number in a household does not translate to being deficit-neutral, no matter how the budget is balanced on paper. This is especially true if you’re the one paying the extra fees, which most of us would be.
Secondly, the Oklahoma taxpayer is not responsible for bailing out a failing industry. In the free-market system, companies must adapt, compete and sometimes change their material to prosper. Oklahoma needs to encourage free-market principles. This proposal would instead subsidize an industry that is becoming marginalized by technology advances such as cell or VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone lines.
Thirdly, it is argued that this proposal would encourage businesses to move to Oklahoma. Lower taxes, less government involvement in the private sector and greater freedoms for businesses to compete would encourage businesses to move to Oklahoma. When the government starts choosing which sectors of the economy should remain, despite the market pushing it out, businesses take note, and most of them do not approve.
The Gazette article reported, “Oklahoma has one of the highest percentages of people ‘cutting the cord,’ losing their landlines in favor of a cell phone.” With that in mind, this proposal, whether voted on this month or next year, makes no sense and should not be tabled. The OCC’s wireless fee should be abolished completely.
Jolly is state director of Americans for Prosperity”Oklahoma, a nonprofit organization that advocates for limited government.