Some California regulators pushed to impose a tax on text messages. This tax money would have gone to programs such as 911 services, phone services for low-income families, and more equipment for people with disabilities. However, this tax proposal was shut down.
The tax wouldn’t have been per text message, it would have been a monthly fee. Commissioner Carla J. Peterman had written a 52-page proposal and the commission voted on Jan. 10, 2019. Without a doubt, the majority of the commission voted against the bill.
The proposal faced a lot of opposition and doubt. The Federal Communication Commission has classified text messages as an “information service.” The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association claimed that if texting is “information service” then the commission had no right to put a tax on them, because they didn’t have authority over it.
California regulators claimed that this money will go back to the citizens, but how exactly is that going to happen? If the commission claims to give the money back to low income families, then why were they trying to tax them? If you tax everyone, they will lose money which wouldn’t help the poor.
This proposal, if imposed, would also create inequality among messaging applications. If carriers tax phone-users on their messages then there would have been an increase in use of other messaging services such as Skype, Snapchat, and Whatsapp. The tax would have incentivized people to stop using text messages. This would make all of the positive effects on the proposal ineffective.
The proposed tax was less than seven percent. If your monthly phone bill is $50 it would have been $53.50 with the tax.
One thing we should take into account is that the commission says money needs to come from somewhere. If it’s not from our text messages, then it may be from our voice calling services. However, I don’t understand why California needs this extra money. The state already has programs to fund 911 and low income family phone services.
The potential taxing of text messages is being highly opposed and may even by against federal law if the texts are considered an “information service.”