-By Lisa Volpe
As the Illinois legislature continues to meet in Springfield with no state budget on the books, there are some who want to implement a new tax on satellite television customers. This is a discriminatory tax that’s perpetually suggested. The bottom line is that the cable industry wants to impose a satellite tax to make it less attractive for consumers.
The idea proponents are floating is to place a new 5 percent tax on every subscriber’s bill for no other reason than to suppress the satellite industry’s efforts to compete with cable.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle see this tax increase for what it is and have repeatedly rejected it. Since 2009, the cable industry has tried to pass satellite tax bills 53 times in 28 states – and state legislatures across the country have debated and rejected these new consumer taxes time and again. The reason is simple: satellite taxes discriminate against consumers who chose a wireless alternative to cable for their television.
Cable companies in Illinois pay rent – known as a “franchise fee” – to cities and towns for digging up public roads and for hanging wires. The cable industry somehow thinks satellite consumers should pay a tax simply for providing a competing service.
But satellite does not use buried wires and publicly-owned space to deliver its services. It relies on orbiting satellites to deliver video to customers – a far more efficient and less intrusive business model. Asking satellite customers to pay a new tax for property they don’t use is like asking airline passengers to pay for railroad tracks.
The reality is the satellite industry utilizes innovative technology and customers are choosing the programming satellite provides. As a result, cable is asking Illinois lawmakers to subject satellite TV subscribers to a tax to offset their losses.
Satellite is the leader in TV innovation. It provides more sports content, which helps attract customers to bars, restaurants and gaming institutions across the state – a revenue creator for local businesses and the businesses which serve them. Satellite provides more than twice as much foreign language programming compared to cable, critical to a diverse state like Illinois. And, satellite television is often the only choice for consumers and businesses in rural parts of the state as cable doesn’t stretch into all those areas.
The satellite industry, their valued customers and various businesses adversely impacted by this bill were able to defeat it three years in a row. If this feels like a rerun, it is. Those who will be most impacted by this satellite tax are banding together to oppose it again.
A new satellite tax is a tax on choice, a tax on competition, a tax on innovation and a tax on you.
We believe our leaders in Springfield should stop this bill in its tracks once and for all.
Lisa Volpe McCabe is the senior director of public policy for the Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association. SBCA provides industry advocacy for consumer access to the best in satellite delivered services and assurance of its availability at a fair price.