In a head scratching move California’s Public Utilities Commission is contemplating charging phone users a fee for sending text messages.
First California will need to determine if surcharges and user fees on texting meet Public Purpose Programs, which is a system that uses tax revenue to provide communication service in low-income areas. The system debuted in the 1930s and was updated in the late 1990s, giving individual states the power to preserve “universal service.”
This comes as mobile phone users are making fewer phone calls in lieu of texting and that in turn is making it harder to ensure all people have access to communication. Annual revenue from phone calls dropped more than $5 billion from 2011 to 2017. This is in contrast with the budget for subsidizing poor users which has nearly doubled from $670 million in 2011 to $998 million in 2017.
Leading wireless companies argue that added fees would put carriers at a severe disadvantage, as users would switch to services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Apple’s iMessage all of which would be omitted from the tax.
While it will be at least a month before the proposal is voted on, the issue is understandably already causing quite a stir on social media.