Thanks to Centurylink and Frontier the internet speed race in Portland just went from being lagging behind to being a national city frontrunner. In August, CenturyLink announced it is bringing much gigbit service to Portland which will be a boon to small businesses needing the faster internet speeds clocking ta 100 times the usual speed. Centurylink’s ads are already being rolled out to Portlanders. Dan McCarthy, president and chief operating officer Frontier Communications said that Frontier is seeking to expand gigabit services to Portland in the next few months. Unfortunately there is discussion that local governments may interfere and create an “un-level” playing field.
Currently, the City of Portland is offering Google a tax break by exempting them from paying a 3% PEG cable fee that competitor Comcast has to pay. In exchange for that fee, Google gets to offer its service free to select non-profits. Any business would prefer to exchange a portion of their tax bill for the privilege of donating to charity. Such preferential tax deals are patently unfair and bad for business and consumers in Portland. The more unequal our tax laws become the more it drives away competition and removes consumer choices. Portland does not have all the choices.
Oregon must overcome its history of trying to pick winners and losers. The Oregon Legislature once considered a bill that would have made natural gas the priority fuel for Oregon. Luckily the bill was killed, which could have handicapped other alternative energy sources like hydro-power or solar. Simply put, Portland consumers do not need government making their energy or internet decisions for them.
Oklahoma recently faced the same unfairness when they decided to allow a larger internet firm to set up a large data center. Their tax liability was around $5 million, but if a telecom desired to set-up the same project their taxes would be as high as $15 million. It was such a staggering example of inequality and a such a perfect example of how a state’s antiquated tax laws have not kept up with technology that a constitutional amendment was later passed to fix the problem.
Right now, Portland has lagged behind other cities in its internet services. The City should be welcoming new businesses and not gamble away city tax dollars on a particular chosen business.
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