Senate Proposal: Online Sales Tax Bill

the-white-houseIn July 2014, several Senators introduced a bill to the U.S. Senate which combines the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) and the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA). What are these two acts? To put it simply, the ITFA bans tax on Internet access, and the MFA leaves it up to individual states to tax remote sales, including online purchases.

If the Senate chooses to pass the combination of these two acts (making it The Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act), ITFA would no longer be permanent. Instead, its grandfather clause would be extended for 10 years, which allows states like Hawaii, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin to keep pre-existing Internet access taxes.

Do you think the U.S. Senate has a good chance of passing the act in the House? How might this impact your life? Tweet us your answers at @VanWestMedia.

Van West Media is a full service design, support, and consulting agency, offering comprehensive Internet marketing solutions for small to mid-size businesses.

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Emergency 911 Text Service: Coming to a City near You

file0001449879863With cellular devices now dominating communication in the U.S., it only makes sense that our emergency response teams upgrade to receiving 911 dispatches via mobile phone text messages.

According to a recent article from Mashable, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a ruling that requires all mobile service providers to now offer their customers a “text-to-911” option. The FCC believes the new requirement will help save lives in situations where persons requiring emergency assistance may be unable to speak or hear, whether it be due to a disability or an endangerment in-process.

The FCC reiterates that text-to-911 should not replace calling 911 and should only serve to complement its existing emergency service line.

In a statement from the FCC, “More than one hundred 911 call centers serving portions of 16 states and two entire states (Vermont and Maine) are now accepting emergency texts, and there are already reports of lives saved.”

What we don’t know is whether this new service will use location-based tracking data to trace text messages or whether the inability to ask immediate follow-up questions could complicate matters or cause a delay in emergency response timing.

What do you think of the text-to-911 service? In an emergency, are you more likely to use it versus a traditional phone call? Tweet us your answers @VanWestMedia.

Van West Media is a full service design, support, and consulting agency, offering comprehensive Internet marketing solutions for small to mid-size businesses.
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Bolt: Instagram’s new app

With Snapchat steadily increasing to more than 8 million adult users, the social race is heating up since last week’s leak of BoltInstagram’s first standalone app meant to rival its competitors.

Image via

Bolt features a speedy, single-touch submission of a photo or video to friends. The differentiators are clear:

• Faces of all your friends (phone contacts) are displayed in a scrolling row across the bottom of the screen.
• Tapping a friend’s face instantly sends them the photo or video with one move.
• Unlike Snapchat and similar apps, Bolt only allows you to share your content one person at a time.
• The “shake to unsend” feature allows the user to undo a Bolt within the initial few seconds of sending it. Shaking also brings up the option to save your outgoing content to your camera roll.
• Anyone who has your number in their contact list will have accessibility to send you Bolts. A “blocking” feature is there, however there’s no “reporting” feature for harassment or inappropriate content sharing.
• The content disappears from Instagram’s servers automatically 30 days after sending an image or video.

The disappointing news? Currently, Bolt is only available in three countries: Singapore, South Africa and New Zealand.

What do you think? Will you be “bolting” to download Bolt when it launches in your country? Tweet your answers or opinions to @vanwestmedia using the hashtag #VWMblog or leave us a comment below!

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Do you *really* want to avoid price and timeframe adjustments with your digital technology vendor before a project begins? 


You’re about to get a new online application built for your digital marketing needs. You’ve found an excellent vendor who you know can build it well. The project’s scope had been outlined in broad strokes, and the vendor gave you a ballpark estimate of the price and time it would take to make your online vision a reality.

Working with the vendor, you prepare a thorough technical description for your online application, outlining the production process in detail. The new description lists all the elements of the application user interface and back-end functionality, and defines specific technical solutions that would give your business the edge in the never-ending battle against competitors.

It also becomes clear from the new description that the project will require a bit more work than you and the vendor initially thought necessary.

At this point, should you ask your vendor if there are any adjustments to the price and time frame?

At first, the question may appear absurd. Why would you want to offer your vendor the opportunity to deliver the project later, and at higher price?

However – isn’t it better to have this discussion with the vendor now, rather than in the middle of the project, or, worse, when the project is nearing the deadline – or, worse still, when the project is delayed due to vendor’s lack of commitment because the vendor feels the production team is being underpaid?

At the preliminary stage, before the project has started, you can analyze the vendor’s updated requirements, negotiate them, and include any extra cost into your business plan. Slightly adjusting your business strategy, and possibly the price offered to the end user, can make the resulting web application much more successful (and profitable). Later on, during the production process, should the vendor come back to you demanding more money or time, you can comfortably remind the vendor that you have already factored in adjustments to the price and schedule, and the vendor shouldn’t expect more.

If a vendor comes back to you with the demand for more money or time because you had not thoroughly analyzed the realistic cost during the preliminary stage, and the vendor feels the production team is not being paid for the work it’s doing – that could stall the project near completion, lead to lack of commitment from the vendor (the “underpaid” project will be regularly pushed to the back of the vendor’s pipeline, because the preference would be given to the projects the vendor perceives as more immediately profitable). This could even lead to losing your company’s reputation with the end user, and can cost your company the working relationship with the vendor.

Wouldn’t you be just “hiding your head in the sand” by not requesting the clear and final price / timeframe from the vendor early on, based on clarified project specifications? Being in denial about the very real possibility of a vendor coming back to you with price and timeframe adjustments in the future when your project is already underway is never a good idea.

Build more trust – and more leverage for refusing any future requests – by giving the vendor the fair opportunity to identify all issues related to cost and scope before the project is put in production.

Thinking in terms of Sun Tzu and military strategy, it may be better to give in early so that you can win later.

Did you find this article counter-intuitive? Please share your thoughts with us via email!

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