Bill to ban new wireless taxes rises again

After failing, in the previous two Congressional sessions, to pass bills banning new wireless taxes, a bipartisan group of senators and representatives revives the legislation.

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
2 min read

For the third consecutive Congressional session, a bipartisan bill is aiming to limit new taxes on your cell phone bill. Introduced today in the House of Representatives by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and in the Senate by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Olympia Snow (R-Maine), the Wireless Tax Fairness Act of 2011 would prohibit state and local governments from imposing discriminatory or redundant taxes on mobile services, providers, or mobile technology for a period of five years.

"The current landscape of excessive and discriminatory taxes on wireless services discourages its adoption and use, especially with lower income families." Snowe said in a statement. "As wireless communications become a necessity for families and businesses nationwide, it is imperative wireless consumers are protected from the burdens of exorbitant fees, surcharges, and general business taxes."

The Wireless Tax Fairness Act is similar to legislation introduced in 2008 and in 2009 that never became law. Though the text of the 2011 bill was not available at the time of this writing, the previous bills, which Lofgren also sponsored, did not apply to current taxes or new federal taxes. What's more, the prohibitions didn't cover fees that subsidize emergency 911 services and the Universal Service Fund, which funds phone service for rural and low-income residents.

Not surprisingly, CTIA, the wireless industry's lobbying arm in Washington, D.C., supports the legislation. "In light of today's challenging economic conditions, it is hard to understand why the average wireless consumer is being charged more than 16 percent in taxes and fees when other taxable goods and services are only 7.4 percent," CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent said in a statement.

A hearing for the bill is scheduled for next Tuesday, March 15, before a House Judiciary subcommittee. So far the bill has attracted 140 co-sponsors.