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FCC Approves New Internet Phone Taxes 230

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the always-a-new-tax-never-a-missing-tax dept.
basotl writes to tell us CNet is reporting that the FCC has approved a new round of taxes for internet phone service. Some 4 million users could receive this nasty little surprise as early as their next monthly bill. From the article: "The VoIP industry wasn't alone in questioning the FCC's move. In a letter sent last week to commissioners, attorneys for the U.S. Small Business Administration urged the agency to postpone its action until it had done a thorough analysis of the economic effect on smaller providers."
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FCC Approves New Internet Phone Taxes

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  • Trust the FCC... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bruce McBruce (791094) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @12:03PM (#15596687)
    To think up a way of taxing virtually-free phone calls.
  • by drpimp (900837) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @12:05PM (#15596694) Journal
    NO NEW TAXES PLEASE!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 24, 2006 @12:12PM (#15596715)
    This is B.S. small voip providers will go out of business.

    FCC is working for big telecom.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @12:12PM (#15596717) Homepage Journal
    Dont you already get charged Telecomm taxes if you have DSL, since its basically a phone line anyway?

    ( i dont have DSL, so no, i cant go look at my bill )
  • by sbaker (47485) * on Saturday June 24, 2006 @12:16PM (#15596734) Homepage
    So what about audio chat inside online computer games? I can talk to other players in - how is that different from telephony?

    If I'm taxed for talking to someone using VOIP but not when I happen to be playing a game at the time - then maybe VOIP providers should include a copy of PONG that you can play with the other person while you talk to them?

    The idea that you can tax bytes that contain the human voice in realtime - but you don't tax bytes that contain pictures, or human voice that was recorded a few hours ago...of all the millions of uses for data sent over the Internet - why should realtime human voice be singled out as special. It's just silly.

    We either need to tax ALL data transfers over shared communications links or NONE of them. Repeal the tax on telephony or tax broadband the same way you tax dialled telephony - there is no practical difference.

    Hmmm - so if I use dialup to connect to the Internet - and then use VOIP - do I get taxed twice? I think that's probably illegal.

    The lawyers will make a fortune arguing this one.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 24, 2006 @12:18PM (#15596749)
    If they tax VOIP and not other data, then I want a refund for my YEARS of dialup, when my phone line was used for data and not voice.
  • by ZoneGray (168419) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @12:19PM (#15596752) Homepage
    The rationale is that they're "protecting competition", by making the taxes equal.

    In other words, the established phone companies out-lobbied the startups.

    The very notion that a nation with a First Ammendment needs a "Federal Communications Commission" is absurd. It's one thing to manage RF bandwidth, which was the FCC's original mandate... in the 1920's or 1930's. But they've expanded their mission to micromanaging every electronic communcation in the country, which, nowadays, includes just about everything. It's such an impossible task that they continue to pass new rules because the old ones are "broken". Of course, the new rules will quickly be "broken" too. And then they'll pass more.

    I say, set up an eBay store to auction bandwidth, and close down the rest of the FCC. We can continue to pay the employees, that's not expensive compared to the damage they do when they're working.
  • by SubliminalVortex (942332) * on Saturday June 24, 2006 @12:22PM (#15596764)
    Read my lips: "NO NEW TAXES". We'll just raise the old ones. :)
  • Re:Semantics (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TomTraynor (82129) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @12:24PM (#15596773) Homepage
    If it is leveled by any portion of the government and you don't have a choice about paying it is a tax. You can call it a 'levy' or 'fee', but, it is a tax!
  • by Wellington Grey (942717) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @12:35PM (#15596818) Homepage Journal
    I wonder what they'd to if someone made this set up:

    You speak into a microphone and a speach-to-text program IMs the words to your friend's computer which then reads them aloud. Is that voip? Taxable?

    -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
  • by zippthorne (748122) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @12:35PM (#15596820) Journal
    You get your investment advice from a guy that screams a lot and has a soundboard full of afternoon radio-show sound effects?
  • by maird (699535) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @12:40PM (#15596846) Homepage
    Well, the FCC also regulates access to the medium. That doesn't create a First Ammendment conflict I think. I don't think there is a First Amendment issue in taxing the use of the medium. However, I think that the decency enforcement by the FCC is most certainly a First amendment issue. The seven deadly words are an anachronism. South Park, Family Guy and others long ago found ways to make their audiences hear the words without actually saying them (though South Park doesn't actually have to on its first run medium). Even the Simpsons. There was an episode (early prime time on a Sunday here) where groundskeeper Willy (ie?) said "Have you seen the new tractors, they're all shite". Where I grew up that's the same stuff as shit but only shit is on the FCC list of forbidden words.
  • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice@@@gmail...com> on Saturday June 24, 2006 @12:47PM (#15596885)
    Do your SSH tunnels connect to the PSTN? No? Guess you also didnt read the article then, this is for traffic connecting to the PSTN networks and for that generally you need a third party like Verizon or Skype - if you are using an Asterix PBX to roue your calls chances are you are small enough to slip under the readar and they wouldnt care about you anyway.
  • by sbaker (47485) * on Saturday June 24, 2006 @12:51PM (#15596896) Homepage
    I'm not against the money grab. Someone has to pay for whatever functions these taxes cover - and taxing communications is as reasonable as most of the other things that are taxed.

    The problem is that this is a fuzzy definition. Taxing telephones made sense when they were single function devices for carrying realtime analog voice from A to B. When Fax machines appeared, it still made sense - when dialup modems showed up it made sense because all data was taxed uniformly.

    This new thing makes no sense - if you send a picture by connecting your fax machine to VOIP then you are taxed. If you email the same picture, you aren't. If you phone someone up using VOIP and get their voicemail, you leave a recording of your voice and are taxed for doing it. But if you email them a WAV file containing that exact same recording - no tax.

    These distinctions will become more and more tricky to separate out.

    If I play Battlefield II online - I can chat with other players - no tax. If I call them up using Vonage - tax.

    If I want to save money, I should chat with my Mom via Battlefield II.

    Then there is software like Ventrilo - end to end VOIP with no service provider involved. How can that be taxed?

    This all makes no sense at all. You either have to tax all communications or none of it because it's nonsensical to talk about only taxing bytes which happen to contain realtime acoustic pressures.

    This is just a way for lawyers to make big money.
  • As Reagan said... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao@NOsPAm.hotmail.com> on Saturday June 24, 2006 @01:11PM (#15596988) Homepage
    "If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."
  • by svallarian (43156) <svallarian@ho t m a il.com> on Saturday June 24, 2006 @01:30PM (#15597063)
    Well the first bush lied when he said "No new taxes", so why would you expect is son to be any different?
  • by ZoneGray (168419) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @02:10PM (#15597238) Homepage
    Good grief. Freedom is more complex than being able to say "fuck" on TV, okay?

    The one part of the FCC's involvement that I don't have much of a problem with is their "censorship" of *broadcast* TV... if all they did was mange the public bandwidth and "censor" language (as opposed to opinions) to keep the public airwaves suitable for the public discourse, that wouldn't be a problem.

    But beyond that, the First Ammendment promises freedom in our communications, not a federal authority that dishes out freedom where it sees fit. First they mandate a national telephone monopoly, then they congratulate themselves for breaking it up into six small monopolies. Somehow they've managed to extend their reach to managing who connects to the Internet and how much they pay. While they're promising consumer benefits, they're simply arbitrating between several huge corporations, and using that as an excuse to mandate all sorts of regulatory restrictions on the way we communicate; they specify from whom we can buy services, the records they must keep, which services we can use over which lines, to whom we must pay arbitrary fees, and which corporations we have to pay off for not doing business with the their competitors. All the while, they're protecting the established interests from market-based competition.

    Am I the only one who finds the very idea of a "Federal Communications Commission" somewhat authoritarian?
  • by vtcodger (957785) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:05PM (#15597475)
    ***Oh also that fund that is supposed to "subsidize" rural areas is such a waste. My parents have lived in a rural area for years without DSL and it wasn't made available until a couple years ago. And then, it's 128kbps and it wasn't funded by this stupid fund, but by the local telephone co-op. I'd rather the tax go away.***

    The Universal Service Fund actually does subsidize rural phone users -- poor ones more than richer ones, but a lot of the subsidy goes to the service provider rather than the customer. It's a pretty good chance that without the Universal Service tax, your parents wouldn't have a phone, much less DSL. Or they would be on a party line with 16 other subscribers.

    Same thing with schools. A lot fewer elementary or high schools in the US would have Internet connections if it weren't for Universal Service.

    Now, I personally, happen to think that getting phone service (and DSL) to rural customers is important. On the other hand I think putting the Internet into schools so that the school can then spend a tidy sum to try to keep viruses and pornography out is kind of dumb. But for some reason they overlooked my name when looking for a candidate to replace Michael Powell (and we should all thank God that he is gone) at the FCC.

    Anyway, the US has been subsidizing rural phone users for so long that most of us have forgotten that it happens and we are taxed to support it. We don't have a tax to support DSL to rural areas and as a result, most rural areas don't have broadband. If you believe that subsidizing rural users is important, then taxing calls made via VOIP is perfectly reasonable. (Whether the tax rate is reasonable is a different issue -- and one on which I don't have an opinion.)

  • by mobby_6kl (668092) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:06PM (#15597479)
    Freedom is more complex than being able to say "fuck" on TV, okay?

    Sure it is, but it's somewhat scary when there's a secret list of things you can't say on TV/radio, and get your ass fined to the poorhouse if you do.
  • by fyngyrz (762201) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:53PM (#15597649) Homepage Journal
    Well, the FCC also regulates access to the medium. That doesn't create a First Ammendment conflict I think.

    Where I live, there is one (1) AM station, and one (1) FM station. yet, I cannot get a license to transmit without paying huge fees, employing lawyers, installing ridiculous over-featured equipment (I'm a 1st class HAM operator and at one time held the 1st class FCC radiotelephone operator's license as well -- so I know what's required, in fact, I'm the very fellow you used to have to hire in order to ensure that your installation complied technically. You can broadcast a clean AM or FM signal for under a grand, easily.)

    The fact is, the FCC has created a situation where exactly one (1) type of entity has access to the airwaves: The rich. Rich individuals or rich corporations, these are the only ones who can get on, and therefore, they 100% control what is said. Clearly, this is a 1st amendment issue.

  • by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:06PM (#15597901) Homepage
    There's some argument for subsidising infrastructure, but the current model of "taxpayers pay, telcos profit" isn't nessiarily the best plan - it'd be like if the government payed for the construction of a private toll road and then got none of the tolls.
  • by Amouth (879122) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @11:55AM (#15600989)
    "'censor' language (as opposed to opinions) to keep the public airwaves suitable for the public discourse, that wouldn't be a problem"

    thats kinda intresting because the do censor more than just language.. and who they hell are they to tell me what words are bad.. i am sorry but i am sick of this bad word here bad ideas and the damn people that take money out of my pay check whcih i work for - and no they don't give me an option about how much.. they just take - then they turn around and tell me what is best for me with out my impout.. no.. i am sorry this is bull shit.. we have the right to say what ever we want to whom every we want and they have the right to ignore us.. but they don't have the right to stop us from saying it..

    the FCC is doing just that.. you really need to sit down and think about what you are saying .. if you allow them to censor for one thing they will twist it and censor another.. and before you know it you can't say anything to fix it.

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