California text messaging tax could add extra fees to phone bills

The fees would reportedly help make mobile services more accessible to the poor.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
2 min read
Female writing text messages
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Californians, you may have to pay for text messages.

State regulators in California have been discussing a tax on texts to help finance programs that make mobile service accessible to the poor, according to a Tuesday report in The Mercury News. Under the proposal, consumers would reportedly pay their wireless carrier a flat rate fee for texts, though it's unclear how much the surcharge might be.

The California Public Utilities Commission filed the proposal last month, detailing why the commission is considering charging for text messages. State regulators found that the Public Purpose Program budget has increased from $670 million in 2011 to $998 million in 2017, but that revenue from the telecom industry that funds the public program has fallen over $5 billion in the same time period.

Regulators who support the proposal said charging for text messages would help "preserve and advance" public programs.

The proposal is scheduled to be heard on Jan. 10, 2019 at the Voting Meeting, according to a CPUC spokesperson. The Federal Communications Commission would decide on Wednesday if the state utilities commission has authority to impose such surcharges, according to The Mercury News.

The FCC didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

First published on Dec. 12, 1:21 p.m. PT. 

Updates on Dec. 13, 8:41 a.m. PT: Adds information from CPUC spokesperson. 

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