Published: Sun, December 16, 2018
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

California proposes plan to tax text messages

California proposes plan to tax text messages

For the most part, cellphone plans come with unlimited texting these days, though residents in California may still have to pay a bit extra as a part of a proposed tax on text messaging.

The CPUC report says it is unsustainable for the Public Purpose Program to continue with shrinking revenue if not subsidized by a new source.

Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel dissented from the ruling, which she criticized as reflecting the FCC's "quest to dismantle the regulatory frameworks that protect Americans". "Taxing this service would burden those who rely on and use this service each and every day".

The proposal will not see a vote this year but is on the docket for early 2019.

Some advocates say a text tax is a misguided effort that harms consumers.

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the commission's decision would allow wireless providers "to continue taking action against unwanted text messages". The Ruling emphasizes the fact that text messaging is now a trusted communications medium with a high approval rate among consumers which the FCC attributes to low receipt of spam.

In a blow to consumer advocacy groups and the company Twilio, which offers texting services, the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday classified text messaging as an "information" service. Instead, the FCC decided that SMS and MMS should be considered "information services" under the Communications Act, giving operators the ability to restrict their network access in order to prevent unwanted text messages.

The petition had asked the commission to affirm what should be obvious: that text messaging is "telecommunications"-which is to say that when you send a text, you expect your carrier will send it where you want it to go without changing its content or blocking it". "There's a lack of common sense that goes with trying to tax the most basic form of communication that our society has evolved into". New Jersey is one of the most taxed states in the nation.

California regulators are considering a plan to charge a fee for text messaging on mobile phones to help support programs that make phone service accessible to the poor.

A number of business groups are already criticizing the bill, saying that Californians could start seeing taxes of over $44 million annually. Their letter says a wireless household of two people making a combined income of $28,000 - above the threshold for discounted phone service through the FCC's LifeLine program - would have to pay the tax, whereas only one member of a qualifying LifeLine household would be exempt. Industry reps point to non-texting services - such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, etc. - as being platforms which handle the lion's share of messaging nowadays.

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