California considers text messaging tax to fund cell service for low-income residents

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California state regulators have been ginning up a scheme to charge a fee for text messaging on mobile phones to help support programs that make phone service accessible to the poor. The wireless industry and business groups have been working to defeat the proposal, now scheduled for a vote in January by the California Public Utilities Commission. It’s unclear how much individual consumers would be asked to pay their wireless carrier for texting services under the proposal. But it likely would be billed as a flat surcharge per customer — one of those irksome fees at the bottom of your wireless bill — not a fee per text. The CTIA, which represents the US wireless communications industry, said in legal filings to the commission that texting is an information service like email, not a telecommunications service subject to the commission’s authority.

A dense California Public Utilities Commission report laying out the case for the texting surcharge says the Public Purpose Program budget has climbed from $670 million in 2011 to $998 million in 2017. But the telecommunications industry revenues that fund the program have fallen from $16.5 billion in 2011 to $11.3 billion in 2017. “This is unsustainable over time,” the report says, arguing that adding surcharges on text messaging will increase the revenue base that funds programs that help low-income Californians afford phone service. 

OMG! Now California wants to tax text-messaging? (San Jose Mercury News) alifornia considers text messaging tax to fund cell service for low-income residents (The Hill) California Public Utilities Commission report