77°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

California regulators consider a tax on text messaging

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — 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, according to a newspaper report Wednesday.

The proposal is scheduled for a vote next month by the state Public Utilities Commission, the Mercury News reported.

The wireless industry and business groups have been working to defeat the plan.

“It’s a dumb idea,” said Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council business-sponsored advocacy group. “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.”

It’s unclear how much money individual consumers would be asked to pay their wireless carrier for texting services under the proposal, the newspaper said. But it is likely would be billed as a flat surcharge — not a fee per text.

Wunderman said he’s unaware of any other local, state or federal program that taxes texting. And the wireless industry has argued the state commission lacks legal grounds for doing so.

Business groups calculated the new charges for wireless consumers could total about $44.5 million a year. They said that under the regulators’ proposal the charge could be applied retroactively for five years — and could amount to a bill of more than $220 million for California consumers.

A CPUC report proposing the texting surcharge says the Public Purpose Program budget has climbed from $670 million in 2011 to $998 million last year. But the telecommunications industry revenues that fund the program fell from $16.5 billion in 2011 to $11.3 billion in 2017, it said.

“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.

“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,” CPUC spokeswoman Constance Gordon said in a statement.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Judge could block billions for Trump’s planned border wall

A federal judge is expected to decide Friday whether to block the White House from spending billions of dollars to build a wall on the Mexican border with money secured under President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency.

Missouri governor signs bill banning abortions at 8 weeks

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Friday signed a bill that bans abortions on or beyond the eighth week of pregnancy without exceptions for cases of rape or incest, making it among the most restrictive abortion policies in the nation.

GOP conservative blocks overdue $19B disaster bill, for now

A House GOP conservative complaining of Washington’s free-spending and opaque ways temporarily blocked a long-overdue $19 billion disaster aid bill on Friday.

 
West Point to graduate record number of black female cadets

The class of cadets preparing to jubilantly toss their caps in the air at the U.S. Military Academy’s graduation ceremony Saturday includes 34 black women, a record number that’s a sign of concerted efforts to diversify West Point’s Long Gray Line.

Abortion opponents widely divided over rape, incest issues

Even as the anti-abortion movement celebrates the sweeping bans passed in several states, it’s divided by a widening rift over whether those prohibitions should apply to victims of rape and incest.

CEOs get $800K pay raise, leaving workers further behind

Pay for CEOs at S&P 500 companies rose to a median of $12 million last year, including salary, stock and other compensation, according to data analyzed by Equilar.