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From WOAI/San Antonio

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — In the California where Joe Stack started out as a fresh-from-college software engineer, fighting the tax man was, quite literally, a religion.

Back in the 1970s and ’80s, California was not just the center of the “silicon revolution.” The Golden State was also a teeming hive of anti-government activity, much of it aimed at the federal income tax code and the agency that enforced it — the Internal Revenue Service.

Tax protesters and self-styled patriots railed against exemptions granted to religious organizations, the Catholic Church in particular. They formed their own “churches” and invited others to join.

“It sounds like he went down that same path,” said Dennis Riness, who did time in federal prison for running a church-styled tax shelter. “And ran into the same brick wall.”

Riness and most others gave up the fight. It seems Joe Stack could not, unable to let go of his hatred for a system that he felt enslaved him. After two decades of financial setbacks and professional disappointments, facing an audit in a down economy, Stack decided to strike back.

In an angry letter that rambles on for 3,000 words, the 53-year-old Stack set out his grievances, attributing his failures to everything from the dot-com bust to the “911 nightmare.” He traced the beginnings of his problems with the government back 24 years and an obscure change in the Internal Revenue Code affecting software professionals.

“It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants,” Stack wrote. “I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure (sic) nothing will change.”

He posted his manifesto on the Web site of his business last Thursday morning. A short time later, his house 20 minutes north of the Texas Capitol was ablaze. He was behind the controls of his single-engine Piper PA-28: “Going southbound, sir,” he radioed the airport tower. “Have a great day.”

Impact with the black-glass office building that houses offices of the IRS came moments later. Miraculously, the crash that consumed Stack killed only one other victim — Vernon Hunter, 68, a Vietnam veteran and father of six who worked for nearly 30 years at the IRS. Ken Hunter said if Stack had come in and talked to his father, he would have done his best to help.

“My dad didn’t write the tax law,” he said. “Nobody in that building wrote the tax law.”

But Stack wasn’t looking for help. Like Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, he hoped his suicidal flight would become “a catalyst” for fundamental change, said JJ MacNab, who has studied tax protesters for a decade.

“McVeigh wasn’t willing to die,” said MacNab, a Maryland-based insurance analyst. “This guy was.”

___

There’s no doubt that Andrew Joseph Stack III had his share of misery.

He told his daughter he was an orphan at age 4, when both his parents died in an auto accident, and was separated from his two brothers and sister, spending at least part of his childhood in a Catholic orphanage.

Eventually, he and little brother Harry were shipped off to the Milton Hershey School, an institution for orphaned boys founded by the Pennsylvania chocolate magnate and his wife. In college, Stack went through stints during which he survived on peanut butter and bread — “or Ritz crackers when I could afford to splurge.”

Yet he also had advantages that others did not.

At Hershey, where he was known as Andy, Stack had it better than most of his schoolmates. Because he was in glee club and lived in one of the “musical homes,” he was exempt from working the morning milkings in the school dairy barns, said former classmate Mike Macchioni.

And, like all Hershey students, Stack would have left the school in 1974 with a suitcase filled with new clothes, $100 in cash and the promise of financial help for college, Macchioni said. He attended Harrisburg Area Community College from 1975-77 but did not graduate, said school spokesman Patrick M. Early.

Brilliant by all accounts, hot-tempered by some, Stack headed for California in the early 1980s to make his fortune in computers. It was then, he wrote, that he got his “introduction to the real American nightmare.”

In 1985, Stack incorporated Prowess Engineering Inc. in Corona, Calif. Papers list Stack as chief executive and financial officer, and wife first Ginger as secretary and co-director.

Around this time, the budding entrepreneur had developed some kind of beef with the IRS. According to his suicide letter, some friends introduced Stack to “a group of people who were having ‘tax code’ readings and discussions.”

In those days, they weren’t hard to find.

Groups such as Your Heritage Protection Association and the Church of Christ, led by disbarred attorney William Drexler, were holding forth to packed rooms, preaching the gospel of hard currency and the unconstitutionality of the tax code.

“We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the ‘best’, high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business),” Stack wrote, “and then began to do exactly what the ‘big boys’ were doing (except that we weren’t steeling (sic) from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God).”

That passage rings familiar to Riness. In 1978, he and partner Michael S. McGinnis founded the tax-protest group “TEA, an Association of Twentieth Century Patriots” — which claimed up to 4,000 members. The pair joined up with the Universal Life Church in Modesto, Calif., and formed their own denomination, the Church of Universal Harmony, selling church charters for up to $1,500 apiece.

MacNab is convinced after reading his manifesto that Stack likely started his own “home church.” He wrote that he and his friends were very careful to “make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.”

“The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living,” Stack wrote.

Riness said that’s exactly what he was hoping to achieve with the Church of Universal Harmony: “I thought that the worst thing that would happen is that if we got so big and others got big, the code would change and they would take away tax breaks to churches,” he said.

Both men would learn that wasn’t the worst possible outcome.

According to Stack’s letter, this “little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0.” Riness lost more than just money. In 1986, he pleaded guilty in federal court to tax fraud. That October, he was sentenced to 13 months in prison, fined $5,000 and ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service.

Something else happened in 1986 that would gnaw at Stack for the rest of his life. Section 1706 of the federal tax code was changed in a way that essentially forced technology consultants — designers, programmers, systems analysts or, like Stack, software engineers — to be classified as employees rather than as self-employed workers, depriving them of certain tax deductions.

“(T)hey could only have been more blunt if they would have came out and directly declared me a criminal and non-citizen slave,” Stack wrote.

Stack dedicated himself to the “campaign against this atrocity.” By his own account, he spent nearly $5,000 and “at least 1000 hours of my time writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen; none did, and they universally treated me as if I was wasting their time.”

Stack’s first documented run-in with revenue officials appears to have come in 1994, when he failed to file a state tax return. The California Franchise Tax Board eventually suspended Prowess in 2000.

In 1995, Stack started Software Systems Service Corp. in Lincoln, Calif. But that company, too, was suspended in 2004 because Stack failed to pay $1,153 in state taxes, board spokeswoman Denise Azimi said.

In March 1998, Ginger Stack filed for divorce. The following year, just two months after the divorce was finalized, she filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing IRS liabilities totaling nearly $126,000. Although much of that debt was from 1993, when the couple were still married, Joe Stack was not included in the filing.

Despite his financial ups and downs, Stack did well enough to indulge his interest in flying. He obtained his first pilot’s license in 1994 and had owned a costly Velocity Elite XL-RG plane in addition to the Piper.

But he complained that most of his business dried up after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks — when “Government came to the aid of the airlines with billions of our tax dollars” and “left me to rot and die while they bailed out their rich, incompetent cronies WITH MY MONEY!”

He decided to relocate to Texas, airplane mechanic Dave Page recalls, because he liked the Lone Star State’s “tax structure.”

___

Stack landed in Austin, the state’s capital city and a hotbed of technology companies. In 2003, he started a company called Embedded Art that he described as a “small independent software house, specializing in process control and automation.”

But Stack found Austin a place “with a highly inflated sense of self-importance and where damn little real engineering work is done. I’ve never experienced such a hard time finding work.”

Friends said they saw no signs of that simmering rage. A bass guitarist and an above-average keyboard player, Stack blended right into Austin’s rich music scene. He teamed up with other musicians to form Last Straw, a jazz-blues-rock ensemble. Lead singer Simone Wensink thinks Stack might even have been the one who came up with the band’s now-ironic name.

“I felt like totally safe with this man,” said Wensink, who once flew in Stack’s plane to New Mexico.

In May 2007, with nearly $225,000 in bank loans, Stack bought a two-story, 2,500-square-foot brick house in a tree-shaded Austin subdivision. Two months later, he married the former Sheryl Housh, a piano instructor with a daughter from a previous marriage.

His anger, however, continued to build. Court records indicate he was employed as recently as last year as a software engineer for DAC International, an Austin-based aerospace engineering, manufacturing and marketing firm. As part of a corporate bankruptcy filing, Stack submitted claims for $1,238 he said he was owed in back pay from March 2009 and accrued vacation time.

He claims to have started his letter “many months ago” as a kind of “therapy,” but reached a tipping point last week.

Police say Sheryl Stack took her 12-year-old daughter to a hotel Wednesday night following an argument with her husband. The family’s accountant confirmed Saturday that the Stacks were in the midst of an audit for reportedly failing to report income.

“I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different,” Stack wrote. “I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.”

___

Associated Press writers Jim Vertuno in Austin, Danny Robbins in Dallas, Juliet Williams in Sacramento, Calif., and Ian MacDougall in Oslo, Norway, contributed to this report.

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Joe Stack’s original website:

http://www.embeddedart.com

This website has been taken offline due to the sensitive nature of the events that transpired in Texas this morning and in compliance with a request from the FBI.

Regards,
T35 Hosting – http://www.T35.com

Joe Stack’s last message copied from Freethought and Rationalism Discussion Board

If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt asking yourself, “Why did this have to happen?” The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time. The writing process, started many months ago, was intended to be therapy in the face of the looming realization that there isn’t enough therapy in the world that can fix what is really broken. Needless to say, this rant could fill volumes with example after example if I would let it. I find the process of writing it frustrating, tedious, and probably pointless… especially given my gross inability to gracefully articulate my thoughts in light of the storm raging in my head. Exactly what is therapeutic about that I’m not sure, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

We are all taught as children that without laws there would be no society, only anarchy. Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, our government stands for justice for all. We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place, and that we should be ready to lay our lives down for the noble principals represented by its founding fathers. Remember? One of these was “no taxation without representation”. I have spent the total years of my adulthood unlearning that crap from only a few years of my childhood. These days anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a “crackpot”, traitor and worse.

While very few working people would say they haven’t had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.

Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”. It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.

And justice? You’ve got to be kidding!

How can any rational individual explain that white elephant conundrum in the middle of our tax system and, indeed, our entire legal system? Here we have a system that is, by far, too complicated for the brightest of the master scholars to understand. Yet, it mercilessly “holds accountable” its victims, claiming that they’re responsible for fully complying with laws not even the experts understand. The law “requires” a signature on the bottom of a tax filing; yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing; if that’s not “duress” than what is. If this is not the measure of a totalitarian regime, nothing is.

How did I get here?

My introduction to the real American nightmare starts back in the early ‘80s. Unfortunately after more than 16 years of school, somewhere along the line I picked up the absurd, pompous notion that I could read and understand plain English. Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having ‘tax code’ readings and discussions. In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful “exemptions” that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy. We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the “best”, high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business), and then began to do exactly what the “big boys” were doing (except that we weren’t steeling from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God). We took a great deal of care to make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.

The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living. However, this is where I learned that there are two “interpretations” for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us… Oh, and the monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws; the inquisition is still alive and well today in this country.

That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0. It made me realize for the first time that I live in a country with an ideology that is based on a total and complete lie. It also made me realize, not only how naive I had been, but also the incredible stupidity of the American public; that they buy, hook, line, and sinker, the crap about their “freedom”… and that they continue to do so with eyes closed in the face of overwhelming evidence and all that keeps happening in front of them.

Before even having to make a shaky recovery from the sting of the first lesson on what justice really means in this country (around 1984 after making my way through engineering school and still another five years of “paying my dues”), I felt I finally had to take a chance of launching my dream of becoming an independent engineer.

On the subjects of engineers and dreams of independence, I should digress somewhat to say that I’m sure that I inherited the fascination for creative problem solving from my father. I realized this at a very young age.

The significance of independence, however, came much later during my early years of college; at the age of 18 or 19 when I was living on my own as student in an apartment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My neighbor was an elderly retired woman (80+ seemed ancient to me at that age) who was the widowed wife of a retired steel worker. Her husband had worked all his life in the steel mills of central Pennsylvania with promises from big business and the union that, for his 30 years of service, he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement. Instead he was one of the thousands who got nothing because the incompetent mill management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement. All she had was social security to live on.

In retrospect, the situation was laughable because here I was living on peanut butter and bread (or Ritz crackers when I could afford to splurge) for months at a time. When I got to know this poor figure and heard her story I felt worse for her plight than for my own (I, after all, I thought I had everything to in front of me). I was genuinely appalled at one point, as we exchanged stories and commiserated with each other over our situations, when she in her grandmotherly fashion tried to convince me that I would be “healthier” eating cat food (like her) rather than trying to get all my substance from peanut butter and bread. I couldn’t quite go there, but the impression was made. I decided that I didn’t trust big business to take care of me, and that I would take responsibility for my own future and myself.

Return to the early ‘80s, and here I was off to a terrifying start as a ‘wet-behind-the-ears’ contract software engineer… and two years later, thanks to the fine backroom, midnight effort by the sleazy executives of Arthur Andersen (the very same folks who later brought us Enron and other such calamities) and an equally sleazy New York Senator (Patrick Moynihan), we saw the passage of 1986 tax reform act with its section 1706.

For you who are unfamiliar, here is the core text of the IRS Section 1706, defining the treatment of workers (such as contract engineers) for tax purposes. Visit this link for a conference committee report regarding the intended interpretation of Section 1706 and the relevant parts of Section 530, as amended. For information on how these laws affect technical services workers and their clients, read our discussion here.

SEC. 1706. TREATMENT OF CERTAIN TECHNICAL PERSONNEL.

(a) IN GENERAL – Section 530 of the Revenue Act of 1978 is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new subsection:

(d) EXCEPTION. – This section shall not apply in the case of an individual who pursuant to an arrangement between the taxpayer and another person, provides services for such other person as an engineer, designer, drafter, computer programmer, systems analyst, or other similarly skilled worker engaged in a similar line of work.

(b) EFFECTIVE DATE. – The amendment made by this section shall apply to remuneration paid and services rendered after December 31, 1986.

Note:

· “another person” is the client in the traditional job-shop relationship.

· “taxpayer” is the recruiter, broker, agency, or job shop.

· “individual”, “employee”, or “worker” is you.

Admittedly, you need to read the treatment to understand what it is saying but it’s not very complicated. The bottom line is that they may as well have put my name right in the text of section (d). Moreover, they could only have been more blunt if they would have came out and directly declared me a criminal and non-citizen slave. Twenty years later, I still can’t believe my eyes.

During 1987, I spent close to $5000 of my ‘pocket change’, and at least 1000 hours of my time writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen; none did, and they universally treated me as if I was wasting their time. I spent countless hours on the L.A. freeways driving to meetings and any and all of the disorganized professional groups who were attempting to mount a campaign against this atrocity. This, only to discover that our efforts were being easily derailed by a few moles from the brokers who were just beginning to enjoy the windfall from the new declaration of their “freedom”. Oh, and don’t forget, for all of the time I was spending on this, I was loosing income that I couldn’t bill clients.

After months of struggling it had clearly gotten to be a futile exercise. The best we could get for all of our trouble is a pronouncement from an IRS mouthpiece that they weren’t going to enforce that provision (read harass engineers and scientists). This immediately proved to be a lie, and the mere existence of the regulation began to have its impact on my bottom line; this, of course, was the intended effect.

Again, rewind my retirement plans back to 0 and shift them into idle. If I had any sense, I clearly should have left abandoned engineering and never looked back.

Instead I got busy working 100-hour workweeks. Then came the L.A. depression of the early 1990s. Our leaders decided that they didn’t need the all of those extra Air Force bases they had in Southern California, so they were closed; just like that. The result was economic devastation in the region that rivaled the widely publicized Texas S&L fiasco. However, because the government caused it, no one gave a shit about all of the young families who lost their homes or street after street of boarded up houses abandoned to the wealthy loan companies who received government funds to “shore up” their windfall. Again, I lost my retirement.

Years later, after weathering a divorce and the constant struggle trying to build some momentum with my business, I find myself once again beginning to finally pick up some speed. Then came the .COM bust and the 911 nightmare. Our leaders decided that all aircraft were grounded for what seemed like an eternity; and long after that, ‘special’ facilities like San Francisco were on security alert for months. This made access to my customers prohibitively expensive. Ironically, after what they had done the Government came to the aid of the airlines with billions of our tax dollars … as usual they left me to rot and die while they bailed out their rich, incompetent cronies WITH MY MONEY! After these events, there went my business but not quite yet all of my retirement and savings.

By this time, I’m thinking that it might be good for a change. Bye to California, I’ll try Austin for a while. So I moved, only to find out that this is a place with a highly inflated sense of self-importance and where damn little real engineering work is done. I’ve never experienced such a hard time finding work. The rates are 1/3 of what I was earning before the crash, because pay rates here are fixed by the three or four large companies in the area who are in collusion to drive down prices and wages… and this happens because the justice department is all on the take and doesn’t give a fuck about serving anyone or anything but themselves and their rich buddies.

To survive, I was forced to cannibalize my savings and retirement, the last of which was a small IRA. This came in a year with mammoth expenses and not a single dollar of income. I filed no return that year thinking that because I didn’t have any income there was no need. The sleazy government decided that they disagreed. But they didn’t notify me in time for me to launch a legal objection so when I attempted to get a protest filed with the court I was told I was no longer entitled to due process because the time to file ran out. Bend over for another $10,000 helping of justice.

So now we come to the present. After my experience with the CPA world, following the business crash I swore that I’d never enter another accountant’s office again. But here I am with a new marriage and a boatload of undocumented income, not to mention an expensive new business asset, a piano, which I had no idea how to handle. After considerable thought I decided that it would be irresponsible NOT to get professional help; a very big mistake.

When we received the forms back I was very optimistic that they were in order. I had taken all of the years information to Bill Ross, and he came back with results very similar to what I was expecting. Except that he had neglected to include the contents of Sheryl’s unreported income; $12,700 worth of it. To make matters worse, Ross knew all along this was missing and I didn’t have a clue until he pointed it out in the middle of the audit. By that time it had become brutally evident that he was representing himself and not me.

This left me stuck in the middle of this disaster trying to defend transactions that have no relationship to anything tax-related (at least the tax-related transactions were poorly documented). Things I never knew anything about and things my wife had no clue would ever matter to anyone. The end result is… well, just look around.

I remember reading about the stock market crash before the “great” depression and how there were wealthy bankers and businessmen jumping out of windows when they realized they screwed up and lost everything. Isn’t it ironic how far we’ve come in 60 years in this country that they now know how to fix that little economic problem; they just steal from the middle class (who doesn’t have any say in it, elections are a joke) to cover their asses and it’s “business-as-usual”. Now when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes… isn’t that a clever, tidy solution.

As government agencies go, the FAA is often justifiably referred to as a tombstone agency, though they are hardly alone. The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies in their eight years certainly reinforced for all of us that this criticism rings equally true for all of the government. Nothing changes unless there is a body count (unless it is in the interest of the wealthy sows at the government trough). In a government full of hypocrites from top to bottom, life is as cheap as their lies and their self-serving laws.

I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants. I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change. I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough.

I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less. I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are. Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer. The cruel joke is that the really big chunks of shit at the top have known this all along and have been laughing, at and using this awareness against, fools like me all along.

I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

Joe Stack (1956-2010)

2/18/10

(Damn Joe, right during tax season! Now they’ll delay all our returns!

On the serious side, I certainly agree with a lot that Joe states in his message. Americans do need to wake up as things will only prove to get worse and worse.. It will take something writhing in ugliness on one’s doorstep before people start to realize that the “conspiracy theorists” were right about a lot of things all along.

It’s too bad Joe felt that there was no way out other than by flying a plane into the building. It’s sad – for everyone involved. RIP)

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Time Warner Cable is starting it – soon other companies will follow. Charges for using the Internet do not just stop with getting connected. I recommend that you read the Businessweek article and learn more as this will be something that everyone will face with their service provider. I’m sure we will see more creative ways that charges are assessed as the years pass…

timewarnercable_logo_1Time Warner to charge for Internet usage

By Creighton Welch on Apr 01, 2009 9:39 AM

Downloading a lot of “movies” via the Internet these days? Be prepared to pay a little extra for all that high bandwidth downloading.

Businessweek reports that Time Warner Cable this summer will begin charging a premium to the heaviest broadband users in San Antonio. Austin, Rochester, N.Y., and Greensboro, N.C. also are on the list. Time Warner is supposed to start collecting data on customers’ Internet usage this month.

The plan works similar to cell phone plans, where you have to pay more if you exceed your minutes. The article says customers will be charged from $29.95 to $54.90 a month, depending on what gigabyte cap level you want. For each gigabyte over that cap level, you’ll be charged $1. A download of a high-definition movie typically eats up about 8 GB.

Time Warner has been testing the program in Beaumont, the past few months and found that 14 percent of the test group busted their limit and paid an average of $19 more per month.

UPDATE:  4/13/09 ——————————————————————————————–

Time Warner delays meter program in South Texas

Officials with the cable company said Monday they are postponing implementation of a new billing format for San Antonio and Austin customers based on Internet usage until October.

A trial program intended to charge varying rates depending on usage was slated to begin this summer. The decision to delay the meter program was prompted mostly by customer reaction, said Gavino Ramos, Time Warner’s vice president of communication for South Texas.

“What happened as we’re continuing to listen was we worked in some of the comments and ideas that got sent to us,” Ramos said. “We came to the realization, let’s do this in October.”

San Antonians have plenty to say about this “stay in execution”:

Time Warner Delay Comments

UPDATE:  4/17/09______________________________________________________

Time Warner backs off tier-based billing

Amid resounding backlash from customers and lawmakers, Time Warner Cable said Thursday it will shelve a trial tier-based billing system for Internet users in four U.S. cities, including San Antonio and Austin. And while critics of broadband caps claimed victory after the announcement, the cable company gave no indication that it was permanently backing down from the bill-by-the-byte business model.

In fact, Time Warner plans to continue collecting usage data from customers and outfitting them with measurement tools intended to help them understand how much bandwidth they use. A Time Warner spokesman said no date has been set to resume the trials, and the company would reconsider implementing a test program that charges varying rates based on Internet usage after renewed efforts to educate customers.

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From the Statesman

Trans-Texas Corridor

Trans-Texas Corridor name dies, but not entire concept

Work will continue on I-35, I-69 pieces of original plan of cross-state tollways, railways and utility lines, officials say.


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Trans-Texas Corridor, as a name and as a guiding concept of the state’s transportation future, is dead, Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director Amadeo Saenz told an audience of more than a thousand people Tuesday at an Austin hotel. But Saenz acknowledged that all elements of the original plan, including a tollway twin to Interstate 35, could be built as stand-alone projects if and when they are deemed necessary.

Gov. Rick Perry in 2002 unveiled with great fanfare the corridor plan as an almost $200 billion blueprint for the state’s transportation future and then took withering criticism for it in a tough 2006 re-election race. On Tuesday, he said, “The days of the Trans-Texas Corridor are over.”

Critics of the corridor plan and TxDOT officials differed Tuesday over whether the body is truly cold and what would constitute the death of the proposed network of cross-state tollways, railways and utility lines. Planning and environmental studies of the twin to I-35, which would run from San Antonio to Oklahoma, and of I-69 , from Brownsville to Texarkana, will not stop, officials said.

And Perry, talking to reporters while in Iraq on a brief visit to Texas troops there, said, “We really don’t care what name they attach to building infrastructure in the state of Texas. The key is we have to go forward and build it.”

Asked if the announcement means that private toll road contracts, which have been central to the two corridor ventures under way to date, are a thing of the past in Texas, Perry said no: “We’ll continue to use all the tools available to build infrastructure.”

So, is a name change really all that occurred Tuesday?

“That’s basically it,” Saenz said. “The connotation of the name was that we were going to build all these elements (roads, rail and utilities) in one footprint.”

By all accounts, the 1,200-foot-wide conglomeration of side-by-side projects, captured in a TxDOT rendering in 2002 that helped set off alarms around the state, won’t be happening.

Saenz’s surprise pronouncement of last rites came a week before legislators gather for a session during which they must decide whether to allow TxDOT to continue pursuing long-term toll road leases with private companies — and just over a year before Perry is likely to face a GOP gubernatorial primary against U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

A Hutchison spokesman said the problem wasn’t the Trans-Texas Corridor name but rather the tollways associated with it and the fields and pastures that would be consumed to build them.

“When citizens pointed out the flaws in his original corridor idea, specifically trampling private property rights, the Perry administration responded with condescension and arrogance,” said Todd Olsen, an Austin-based spokesman for Hutchison’s gubernatorial exploratory committee. “It wasn’t about a name.”

Perry spokesman Mark Miner said, “If the senator hadn’t been asleep at the wheel for the last 15 years and saw that Texas got its fair share of federal tax dollars, we wouldn’t need to look for alternative ways to fund Texas roads.”

Whatever projects emerge from the remains of the corridors — TxDOT is still using that portion of the original term, at least — would be no more than 600 feet wide.

Several years ago, TxDOT officials conceded that much of the plan, particularly its West Texas pieces, would not be needed until far in the future, if ever. And the Trans-Texas Corridor idea all along generated fierce opposition, including from some Perry allies like the Texas Farm Bureau that objected to the large amounts of farm and ranch land that would be lost.

David Stall of Fayette County, southeast of Austin, founded a group called CorridorWatch in opposition to the plan. Stall took TxDOT at its word Tuesday. Even if some pieces remain under study, he said, “the Trans-Texas Corridor as a statewide, massive, multimodal, over-reaching project is dead.”

So why would TxDOT go out of its way to declare the project dead?

“They’ve got some bridges to mend with the Legislature that don’t have asphalt on them,” Stall said. “So if this is a foregone conclusion, it’s an easy gimme.”

The term “Trans-Texas Corridor” for now survives in one very prominent place, the Texas Transportation Code.

A bill eliminating that entire section of law has been filed, something TxDOT would not like to see, given that doing so would wipe out other powers it wants to maintain. “For instance, that’s the only place we have authority to build rail,” Deputy Executive Director Steve Simmons said.

TxDOT officials couldn’t say Tuesday how much had been spent on the corridor plan.

Cintra-Zachry, a Spanish and American consortium hired by TxDOT to develop a plan for the I-35 twin, signed a contract for $3.5 million. But the agency has spent much more on environmental work, public meetings, legal fees and other consulting on the agreements associated with the plan.

TxDOT spokesman Chris Lippincott said almost none of that money should be considered wasted. “We’re still going to build Texas 130 … we’re still going to build I-69,” Lippincott said. “Maybe we wasted some money developing a TTC logo, but that’s about it.”

bwear@statesman.com; 445-3698

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