Will California tax text messages?

December 13, 2018

The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is proposing a fee on text messages that would fund public telecommunications programs such as subsidized phone rates for low-income residents. [SF Chronicle]

It is likely the fee would be billed as a flat surcharge, rather than a per text rate. It is unclear how much money customers would be asked to pay their wireless carriers for texting services under the PUC proposal.

Initially, the proposal was scheduled for a vote Thursday. But, it is being held for further review until a commission meeting next month.

The wireless industry, which is opposing the proposed text messaging surcharge, has argued the PUC does not have the legal grounds to impose the fee. Jim Wunderman, the president of the Bay Area Council, a business-sponsored advocacy group, said he is unaware of any local, state or federal program that taxes texting.

Currently, California’s public telecommunications programs are faced with rising expenses associated with subsidizing low-income users and declining revenue from taxes on phone calls as people are making fewer voice calls.

A PUC staff report says the Public Purpose Program budget has increased from $670 million in 2011 to $998 million last year. Meanwhile, the telecommunications industry revenue that funds the program decreased from $16.5 billion in 2011 to $11.3 billion in 2017.

The PUC says the budget is not sustainable, and it claims a surcharge on text messages may be a wash for consumers because the commission would need to collect less revenue from voice calls.


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Rambunctious

Taxing a text message retroactively is a desperate move…has our state become desperate?…are they finally showing that they know that they have bankrupted us?….

Whats next? an app on your refrigerator so they can tax you each time you open it?…

Are there any sane attorneys in the state that still believe in the US constitution?….


Snoid

My prediction if this passes is vehicular deaths will increase. Why some folks text a few words at a wack before getting out the entire message is a mystery but they do. Im guessing some of it comes from driving and texting where limited time to not look at the road applies. Charge for every text and it gets costly. Therefore more time will be spent making a single long text while driving and of course ignoring whats ahead and more accidents. Pure Rocket science eh?


Jorge Estrada

Another thought…. How about taxing each time we text WTF? That should generate billions in this state.


copperhead

Time to switch to WhatsApp