Californians may be looking at a new fee to add to their collection of unnecessary and bogus taxes; now the Golden State is considering charging people to send and receive text messages on their cell phones. This is nothing to LOL about, at least not to those who will be affected. The monies collected would be used to fund the Public Purpose Program (PPP), which helps provide phones and service to the more impoverished communities.
“It’s a dumb idea,” president of the Bay Area Council business-sponsored advocacy group, Jim Wunderman, said. “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.”
…retroactively collect fees for five years…
But the California Public Utilities Commission doesn’t see it that way, and the matter will be voted on in January. A 52-page report detailing all the reasons the text tax is – according to them – relevant, legal, and necessary was recently submitted. The PPP is losing funds quickly, the report reveals. The budget went from $670 million in 2011 to a whopping $998 million in 2017. Telecommunications revenue is what fuels the budget, but that has fallen from $16.5 billion in 2011 to $11.3 billion last year.
The proposed tax is estimated to generate a healthy $44.5 million per year from wireless consumers, but exactly how they will collect these fees has not been defined yet. It is doubtful consumers will be charged per text they send or receive. Likely there will be the additional fees added at the bottom of their bills, another in a long and continuously growing list of taxes, fees, and surcharges.
Another scary proponent of the proposal would allow them to retroactively collect fees for five years, which could cost the state’s consumers more than $220 million.
“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 from voice services,” said CPUC spokeswoman Constance Gordon in a statement. “Generally, those consumers who create greater texting revenues may pay a bit more, whereas consumers using more voice services may pay less.”
But is it Legal?
There is some debate on whether imposing such a text tax is even legal. The CTIA represents the wireless communication industry in the U.S., which includes the big names of AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint. It argued in findings submitted to the commission that texting is not a telecommunications service, but an information service, like email. The commission “has no authority to impose surcharges on text messaging.”
Adding to the dilemma is the discrepancy the proposal would cause between competing messaging services where some, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, would not be subject to such fees.
“Subjecting wireless carriers’ text messaging traffic to surcharges that cannot be applied to the lion’s share of messaging traffic and messaging providers is illogical, anticompetitive, and harmful to consumers,” the CTIA said in its filings.
WTH California? Aren’t you bleeding your citizens dry enough already? A text tax is not the answer. It’s reminiscent of the hype and fear created a couple of decades ago when the Postal Service tried to demand a fee for sending emails since it was losing so much money in stamps and postage.