"Every time there's a new tool, whether it's Internet or cell phones or anything else, all these things can be used for good or evil. Technology is neutral; it depends on how it's used." Rick Smolan
In a November proposal by the California Public Utilities Commission, Commissioner Carla J. Peterman laid out the “proposed decision” exploring the potential effectiveness of the tax.
According to that 52-page report, California’s budget continues to increase even as tax revenues fall:
“A review of California’s total reported intrastate telecommunications industry revenue, which is used to fund universal service, shows a steady decline in revenue from $16.527 Billion in 2011 to $11.296 Billion in 2017. At the same time, California Public Purpose Program budgets show a steady increase from $670 million in 2011 to $998 million in 2017…”
“A Tax on the Conversations We Have”
California’s Public Purpose program, which adds a surcharge to consumers’ bills for utilities like gas in order to provide universal services to those who can’t afford them, would be tasked with facilitating the proposed text tax. And though the analysis refers to “industry revenue,” the funds would come from taxing individual wireless customers.
“It’s a dumb idea,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council business advocacy group. “This is how conversations take place in this day and age, and it’s almost like saying there should be a tax on the conversations we have.”
Wunderman also questioned the necessity of additional taxes, referencing California’s current budget surplus:
“While perhaps well-intentioned, the specific programs that the commissioners are hoping to fund with your tax dollars already has around $1 billion to spend. These programs are not in need of greater funding from texting or any other source, and even if they were, there is already an approved, transparent process at the commission to raise the necessary funds without the need to create new taxes.”
“To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm.”