‘Text tax’ vote canceled by California utilities panel after FCC ruling
The California Public Utilities Commission has withdrawn from its January meeting agenda a scheduled vote on imposing a tax on text messaging.
The move came after the Federal Communications Commission in Washington declared text messaging to be an “information service,” not a telecommunications service, and thus not subject to a surcharge under California law.
“Prior to this FCC ruling,” the CPUC wrote in a statement posted on Twitter, “text messaging was not a classified service under federal law.
“In light of the FCC’s action,” the statement added, “assigned Commissioner Carla J. Peterman has withdrawn from the CPUC’s Jan. 10, 2019 Voting Meeting agenda the draft decision in Docket R.17-06-023, which proposed to clarify that text messaging service should be subject to the [state of California’s[ statutory surcharge requirement.”
The CPUC’s plan was to use the proposed tax on text messages to help subsidize telecommunications service for the state’s rural areas, as well as for its low-income and disabled residents.
A report from the commission laid out why it viewed the tax was needed. It specifically cited declining telecommunications industry revenues during the past six years -- a drop of nearly $5 million.
"This is unsustainable over time," the report states.
It was not clear from the CPUC’s statement whether the panel had an alternative plan for funding those initiatives.
Jim Patterson, a Republican former mayor of Fresno who now represents the state’s 23rd District as a state assemblyman, was among those hailing the CPUC’s decision to cancel the vote.
“You can bet I’ll keep a watchful eye on them for future shenanigans,” Patterson wrote on Twitter. “For now…consider the Text Tax cancelled.”
Previously, Patterson had characterized the text tax plan as “an outrageous attempt at a money grab from California families.”
The CPUC had claimed that revenues for its subsidy programs have been falling as consumers switch from traditional landline telecom services to text messaging, FOX 11 of Los Angeles reported.
Fox News’ Travis Fedschun contributed to this report.