California “Text Tax” in Jeopardy After FCC Vote

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The FCC voted Wednesday to classify text messages as a Title I information service. The Republican majority said that will help curb spam texts, while the lone Democratic Commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel, warned the change will give carriers license to block texts, which they deny.

The decision could impact California, where the state Public Utilities Commission plans to vote next month to tax texts, in part to cover a budget shortfall. 

The proposed surcharge would be part of the Universal Service Fund charge on the bill, reports the Mercury News. USF subsidies help low-income residents afford telephone service.

However, the wireless industry, businesses and other critics argue that California can’t tax text messages unless federal regulators allow state regulators to treat text messaging as a telecommunications service. That’s not what the FCC did.

The Public Utilities Commission had no immediate response Wednesday, but text tax critics considered the FCC decision a victory. CTIA said the association hopes the CPUC recognizes taxing texts is bad for consumers, according to the account.

Text tax supporters are not deterred. Oakland-based think tank Greenlining Institute spokesman Paul Goodman, said the Commission decision complicates the issue, but doesn’t eliminate “the PUC’s ability to impose” the tax, reports the Mercury News. The Utility Reform Network agrees. “Nothing the FCC has done prevents leadership in this area,” said spokeswoman Mindy Spatt.

December 14, 2018

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