California legislators have proposed a tax on text messages to increase funds for programs that provide underserved residents with connectivity.
The new tax plan, proposed by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), would not charge per text message, but would implement a monthly fee based on a cellular bill that includes any charges for text messages. Most cellular carriers charge a flat fee for texting and include similar fees for other services, such as calls. The specifics of the charge associated with the tax would vary across carriers.
CPUC will vote on the tax plan in January 2019, but it is already facing strong opposition from groups such as the CTIA, which includes AT&T Mobility, Sprint, and T-Mobile. The tax plan is also facing complications by a new Federal Communication Commission ruling that defines text messages as an “information service” like email. This rule’s proponents say that it will provide carriers with the ability to manage spam messages, while critics say that it could cause carriers to censor messages.
The CTIA argued against the tax plan, using the FCC’s new ruling to support that if texts are an information service, then the CPUC does not have authority over them and cannot add surcharges.
California Proposes a Plan to Tax Text Messages, CNN (December 13, 2018)
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