council gives big thumbs down to texting tax

A proposal by the California Public Utilities Commission to tax text messaging got a strong thumbs down this week from the Bay Area Council and other groups. It was unclear exactly how the tax or levy would be charged, but the CPUC plan also called for making it retroactive to five years ago. The CPUC was scheduled to consider the texting tax this week (Dec. 12) but for unknown reasons rescheduled the matter to Jan. 10. An oped by Council CEO Jim Wunderman that ran in the San Jose Mercury News on Wednesday said “the text tax would raise wireless phone bills for tens of millions of Californians young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural” and questioned the need for a new tax. The funding would presumably support a CPUC program to provide access to telecommunications services for lower-income and disadvantaged residents, except that the program already has $1 billion in it and has seen its spending almost double in the past four years. The new tax may also run afoul of federal regulations approved this week that define texting as an information service. That would remove texting from the CPUC’s authority. An unscientific poll of Twitter users that received 417 votes found 95 percent oppose taxing texting. The Council continues to examine this misguided proposal ahead of the January meeting. To learn more, please contact Public Policy Vice President Adrian Covert.

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