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WTF: What's the fee? California now wants to tax text messaging

State regulators mulling surcharge for cellphone users with texting capabilities; no word yet on the price tag

MEHDI FEDOUACH/AFP/GettyImages

California regulators issued a proposal Tuesday to tax cellphone users who utilize text messaging as a way to provide phone access to the poor. The commission in charge has not disclosed the amount of the proposed fee.

OMG, wut?

The recent report from the California Public Utilities Commission cites a decline in the state's revenue collected from the intrastate telecommunications industry as the catalyst for pitching the idea of a new tax that is more lucrative moving forward.

The proposal explains: "Parties supporting the collection of surcharges on text messaging revenue argue that it will help preserve and advance universal service by increasing the revenue based upon which Public Purpose Programs rely. We agree."

Public purpose programs are funded by utility bill fees that are "used to fund state-mandated gas assistance programs for low income customers, energy efficiency programs, and public-interest research and development," according to California's Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

If the text tax is imposed, it is expected to be included as a flat fee charged by cellphone carriers, rather than a charge per text.

LOL R they srsly considering this?

A vote on the measure goes before the CPUC next month, but the commission is already experiencing pushback. Bay Area Council President Jim Wunderman told the Mercury News of the proposal, "It's a dumb idea. This is how conversations take place in this day and age, and it's almost like saying there should be a tax on the conversations we have."

CTIA, the representative of several big telecom firms also blasted the proposal, arguing that "subjecting wireless carriers' text messaging traffic and messaging providers is illogical, anticompetitive, and harmful to consumers."

But CPUC spokeswoman Constance Gorden told The Hill, "From a consumer's point of view, surcharges may be a wash, because if more surcharge revenues come from texting services, less would be needed for voice services. Generally, those consumers who create greater texting revenues may pay a bit more, whereas consumers using more voice services may pay less."

One last thing…
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