California text messaging tax could add extra fees to phone bills

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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 Thursday at the commission’s business meeting, according to the proposal documents. 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 and the California Public Utilities Commission didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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