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Monday, August 27, 2012

FCC Eyes Tax on Internet Service

The Federal Communications Commission is eyeing a proposal to tax broadband Internet service.

The move would funnel money to the Connect America Fund, a subsidy the agency created last year to expand Internet access.

The FCC issued a request for comments on the proposal in April. Dozens of companies and trade associations have weighed in, but the issue has largely flown under the public's radar.

"If members of Congress understood that the FCC is contemplating a broadband tax, they'd sit up and take notice," said Derek Turner, research director for Free Press, a consumer advocacy group that opposes the tax.

Numerous companies, including AT&T, Sprint and even Google have expressed support for the idea.

Consumers already pay a fee on their landline and cellular phone bills to support the FCC's Universal Service Fund. The fund was created to ensure that everyone in the country has access to telephone service, even if they live in remote areas.

Last year, the FCC overhauled a $4.5 billion portion of the Universal Service Fund and converted it into a broadband Internet subsidy, called the Connect America Fund. The new fund aims to subsidize the construction of high-speed Internet networks to the estimated 19 million Americans who currently lack access.

Julius Genachowski, the FCC's chairman, has made expanding broadband access his top priority. He argues that a high-speed Internet connection is critical for succeeding in the 21st century economy and that expanding Internet access is the country's next great infrastructure challenge.

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