Last week, the California Public Utilities Commission revealed a plan to tax text messages and intends to vote on it next month.
Since 1994, the state imposed an “All End User Surcharge” on telecommunications services. The exception was the Universal Lifeline. The revenue was used to fund the Universal Services program for low-income residents.
However, since 2011, these revenues have declined from $16 billion to $11.2 billion last year. The CPUC had decided that the way to reverse the declining revenues, which are due to fewer telephone calls and more text messages, was to impose a tax on mobile phone text messages.
On Wednesday, a Federal Communications Commission decision appears to have negated the state’s plan. As part of an effort to reduce spam robotext messages, the FCC refused to classify “…text messaging services as ‘telecommunications services’ subject to common carrier regulation under the Communications Act — a classification that would limit wireless providers’ efforts to combat spam and scam robotexts effectively.” It also means that the state cannot tax these services.
The FCC stated in its press release that text messages, as SMS and Multimedia Messaging Services, are “information services” which cannot be taxed in the manner the CPUC had planned.