(Via SlashDot) The FCC is pursuing the possibility of taxing internet broadband access. The reason for doing this would be to put resources in the hands of the Connect America Fund, whose goal is to give as much of America access to broadband internet as possible.
Prominent tech companies, including Google, support the move, and I can't entirely say that I'm opposed to it. In principle.
I definitely think that American tax dollars should go towards ensuring that as much of America as possible is connected to the best internet access we can give them. As far as I'm concerned, internet access should be considered a human right.
On the other hand, taxing broadband access is a regressive tax -- it would cut deeper into the budgets of poor people than rich people, if the ISPs pass the cost on to the consumer. Which they would. Obviously.
Much like there ought to be for health insurance, I think there should be a national option for internet access. It should provide good internet, and it should not presume to extract full cost value for every customer. It might turn a profit in a major city, but it would still have to run a line out to the middle of the American Wilderness if someone out there has a cabin they want wired.
Right now, the FCC is just talking about this tax, they haven't actually put in a formal proposal. If they do, they still have to deal with the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which was passed in 1998 and requires that the government not tax the internet. According to the FCC, this wouldn't be a tax -- it would be a fee, that the ISPs could use to justify price increases. Which they would. Obviously.
I'm not totally certain how I feel about all this. The FCC isn't the first group I want to get in the corner for, and I don't want to support a new regressive tax. But Americans need better internet access.