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Senate Mulls Internet Tax Ban - VoIP Exempt?

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the semantic-games-played-by-swine dept.

United States 143

securitas writes "eWEEK's Caron Carlson reports that this week the U.S. Senate will vote on renewing an Internet tax ban, but voice over IP (VoIP) may be taxed. The bill renews a state/local ban on taxing Internet services like VoIP. The federal government wants to define VoIP as a software application exempt from taxes while most states see it as an alternate form of telephony subject to telecommunications taxes. House and Senate bills that define VoIP as a software application have already been introduced but may not be voted on before the Internet tax vote."

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Bah (0, Flamebait)

MooCows (718367) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964202)

Bunch of money loving fools :/

If they need more money, just [increase] tax on internet connections.
But trying to tax VoIP is just as ridiculous as trying to tax email.

Re:Bah (4, Interesting)

Trent05 (70375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964241)

So.. can I spoof my IP address and get my calls billed to my neighbor??

Re:Bah (4, Insightful)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964271)

There was just recently a nice article in Forbes about this very subject. Apparently, the local phone companies are scared shitless because the internet is capable of destroying their stranglehold on the telecommunications market.

The biggest problem with taxing VoIP is that you only need to pay for VoIP when calling someone who still has POTS. VoIP-to-VoIP calls are free.
I strongly believe the feds should ban ALL taxes on internet based telecommunications.

The only good benefit we get from the phone taxes is the emergency services connection. That WILL have to be figured out though.

Re:Bah (1)

geek (5680) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964429)

As for the emergency calls, that's rather easy. Just have an encrypted "address card" sent upon connection. If not encrypted then at least signed. This can all be done rather transparently. Of course, what are the chances of that actually working? I'd say slim to none.

Doesn't work for mobile. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964843)

As for the emergency calls, that's rather easy. Just have an encrypted "address card" sent upon connection. If not encrypted then at least signed.

And when you're using your laptop on the road and call 911, they should go to your home or office? No, I don't think so.

Ditto if you're at home but happen to be VPNing in to work - and the emergency services go to your work.

And then there's Joe Random User. Requiring him to set up an address as part of his internet install (or even his internet phone install) complicates the process. So many of them won't set it up. And others will set it up wrong - and not find out until they call for an ambulance and it doesn't come. And others will be suspicious that they're buying into a "caller ID" that might give out their ADDRESS to people they call. Or to people who call THEM. Even if it doesn't.

And it also puts your physical address on the machine in a well-known place. How long until some stalker cracks his target's machine and comes for her? Or the latest spammer worm carries an additional payload that creates a mailing address database for the spammer - LOTS of bucks in selling THAT one.

Sorry, I don't think that dog hunts.

And in this case encryption doesn't help. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964895)

Just have an encrypted "address card" sent upon connection.

Encryption doesn't give any security, since the DEcryption routine and key has to be present in every set of 911 support software in the country. Only a matter of time until that's compromised. (Not to mention that the need to keep it secret creates a barrier against authors of open-source 911 software authors.)

Better would be a "send address" function at the user's option. But that doesn't solve the problems with mobile and VPN users I mentioned previously.

So the address has to come from the network and the VoIP bridging service.

Getting it from the network carries risks of its own. In principle it could be accessed by governments and used to find the address of ANY connection, destroying anonymity. Imagine its use by a totalitarian government hunting down readers of "forbidden" information and contributors to a dissident blog.

Re:Bah (2, Insightful)

1ucius (697592) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964774)

I'm as anti-tax as the next, but even I am not sure if it makes sense to heavily tax POTS and then make VoIP tax free. Taxes on equivalent services should be roughly the same. Otherwise, the government is picking winners in the market.

They still own all the cards...for now. (2, Interesting)

Famatra (669740) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964978)

"Apparently, the local phone companies are scared shitless because the internet is capable of destroying their stranglehold on the telecommunications market."

The phone companies might hurt for the short run, but they still seem to own the vast majority of the connections on which the internet (and thus VoIP [wikipedia.org] ) ultimately operate.

People creating their own interconnected wireless internet [infoshop.org] networks will probably hurt them more in the long run. Get a large enough tower you can transmit to people like a pirate TV or radio station.

Re:Bah (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 10 years ago | (#8965071)

How about if all taxes are banned and we just pay for everything as it is used?
  • Stop at a stop sign and pay $0.10 for maintenance.
  • Drive on a road and pay $0.001 per mile.
  • Get a traffic ticket and pay $1200 for all of the officials involved.
  • How about paying $5000 for the fire department to put out your house>?li>
Unfortunately, I think we're in this tax thing because of the the way people find it shifts costs around and makes everyone pay a little bit for stuff. The goal (obviously) is to make the taxes low enough to prevent people from complaining too much but high enough to keep things going. That pretty much means everything is taxed in some way. Lucky that we haven't heard about taxes like:
  • Drunk tax. Pay if you drink too much.
  • Sex tax - with different rates for different stuff.
  • Air tax. Pay for breathing, pay for lighting matches, pay for turning on a gas stove. Makes electric stoves cheaper to use.
I hear they are looking at some pretty strange taxes in California because they are in a real bind there.

Re:Bah (2, Interesting)

SquierStrat (42516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964277)

Is it so ridiculous? Attach it like a sales tax. Your SMTP server provider would be the tax collector. They track how many e-mails you send and you get the bill at the end of the month. Every time a spammer sends you an e-mail, they pay for one of your e-mails and that e-mail.

VoIP (as in the serve ices that are like using telephones) taxation wouldn't be that much different. I don't know much about VoIP but IIRC you need a service provider (I'm not talking about the kind of VoIP you have in games) so just charge a 25 cent a month user-fee.

I'm not saying I think they should do it. I'm just saying it's not all that ridiculous of a thing to do.

Re:Bah (1)

sploo22 (748838) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964285)

And what happens when I mark all your mail to me as spam and get you charged double for it? *evil grin*

Re:Bah (1)

SquierStrat (42516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964318)

Sucks to be me. But then are you going to screw all of your friends like that?

Re:Bah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8964314)

Your SMTP server provider would be the tax collector.

As long as I have IP access, why would I need an "SMTP server provider"?

Re:Bah (2, Insightful)

SquierStrat (42516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964336)

*You* don't. Most people use one though because most people have no idea how to set up their own SMTP server. You doing that would be like someone using a private courier rather than the US Postal Service. Make sense?

Exactly... (2, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964378)

*You* don't. Most people use one though because most people have no idea how to set up their own SMTP server. You doing that would be like someone using a private courier rather than the US Postal Service. Make sense?

...so when everybody you'd like to hit with this tax (i.e. spammers) would do so, haven't you then simply created a massive, complex system with lots of international tax rules, money transfers and administration for absolutely no gain at all???

Kjella

Re:Exactly... (1)

SquierStrat (42516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964403)

Pretty much. But that's the US govt in a nutshell these days.

Re:Bah (1)

kayen_telva (676872) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964539)

I don't know much about VoIP

You can talk directly to another person. No service provider is needed.

pathetic (3, Insightful)

parksie (540658) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964203)

how are they planning on enforcing this? It's completley pointless.

Re:pathetic (3, Funny)

nkh (750837) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964281)

The new Aprils Fools RFC: Voice Over IP Taxation Bit...

Re:pathetic (1)

fataugie (89032) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964297)

Exactly...

The only way I could see them levying the tax would be to add a tax onto the software when you buy it, kind of like the video cassette tax back in the 80's.

How would they know it's a conversation? How would they differentiate between a Powwow chat and a cisco VoIP? How would they know this packet contains VoIP so it should be taxed (by who and how...but that's another matter) and this packet contains Aunt Matilda's Hallmark greeting card?

I agree with the FP, they are a bunch of money loving bastards and if they could find a way to tax breathing air, they would.

Re:pathetic (2, Insightful)

SquierStrat (42516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964328)

Of course they would. It's called power. If you control someone's finances you have power over them. That's why your employer can tell you what to do and that's why the founding fathers tried to limit taxation by banning direct taxes.

IRS Spyware! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8964544)


New Dialog Box on Windows:

Attention:
Click here to pay your on-line tax of [$189.47] for 50 GB of music downloads... (PayPal) (Visa) (MasterCard)

What defines VoIP? (5, Interesting)

ZaMoose (24734) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964205)

For instance, Unreal Tournament 2004 has VoIP functionality built-in in order to facilitate communication between teammates. Might it be subject to taxation?

What about GAIM's VoIP plugins? Or Gnomemeeting/Netmeeting?

Are we just talking about apps that mimic a telephone, or are we talking about all VoIP applications?

I don't trust Congress on these matters. I get the feeling that VoIP will end up being broadly defined and some horror stories resulting from the mess.

Re:What defines VoIP? (1)

SquierStrat (42516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964288)

Stop voting for the people you don't trust and elect people you do trust then.

Re:What defines VoIP? (2, Insightful)

kayen_telva (676872) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964323)

They dont exist. Its a "lesser of two evils" situation and has always been. mostly.

Re:What defines VoIP? (1)

SquierStrat (42516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964347)

Try voting for a third party, or how about YOU run? If you distrust them so much, you go do it. Hell, if you'll lower taxes and let freedom abound, I'll vote for you. Come to Georgia and run for Zell Miller's seat.

Re:What defines VoIP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8965187)

Worked for a third party for a decade and a half. Learned the hard way. The game is rigged. If voting could change the system it would be illegal.

Re:What defines VoIP? (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964333)

What people? Both sides of the fence want to randomly tax things to see how much money they can get [to ultimately commit more warcrimes with poorly educated peeps] while alienating their voting public the least.

Re:What defines VoIP? (1)

SquierStrat (42516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964340)

Try voting for a third party. You're not throwing your vote away if you do. You're speaking YOUR voice.

Re:What defines VoIP? (0, Troll)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964380)

third party? Liar. CNN tells me what I need to know. There are the democrats [Bush] and Republicans [Kerry]. And that's all there is to it. CNN is NEAT!

Tom

Re:What defines VoIP? (1)

SquierStrat (42516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964408)

*cough* Ooookay.

Re:What defines VoIP? (2, Interesting)

bwy (726112) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964389)

My guess is that if this goes through, their intention is to tax VOIP when it is implemented through a telco. It is hard to tell from these articles that were posted though because aren't written with a lot of technical detail.

Sure, there are other ways to use VOIP technology, but it is totally nothing compared to the number of people who use the PSTN. My guess is they would like to position themselves to levy taxes as some telcos go from circuit switched technology to packet switched.

You're probably right though, I think the laws will end up being written so broadly and poorly that nothing will really be exempt.

Re:What defines VoIP? (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964423)

I suspect that the intended defniition of "VOIP" is to cover things which have interconnects to the PSTN and let you contact people on the PSTN (e.g. vonage)

Re:What defines VoIP? (1)

1ucius (697592) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964708)

That was my guess too. Another administratively simple alternetive is to slap a flat fee on ISP service for 'making VoIP serivce available.'

Well... Let's make this simple (2, Insightful)

Talez (468021) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964426)

If it interfaces with the PSTN its a telecommunications medium and should be taxed accordingly because it is a PSTN service.

If its a point to point connection between two users with no PSTN involvement the baby bells can go jump.

Fair? I think so.

Re:What defines VoIP? (1)

Big_Al_B (743369) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964446)

Okay. Here's the deal: No one is trying to tax your UT, or your *meeting calls. At least not yet.

Currently, "VoIP" in the government's eyes is carrier-class packet telephony implemented to replace PSTN services for consumers and business. There are companies out there, like mine, who are gaining traction delivering this type of service. Multisite companies love not paying LD charges between LATAs/states...

This really means PSTN-quality audio, without the regulated tarriffs, origination fees, and termination fees.

Which makes the telco lobby jumpy--and what makes powerful industry lobbies jumpy eventually makes congress jump.

Re:What defines VoIP? (2, Insightful)

MinotaurUK (763706) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964700)

I think it'd be extremely difficult to achieve consistent taxation across VoIP connections, simply because without a hell of a lot of packet sniffing how do you tell that the traffic is VoIP at all.

On the other hand, taxing it at the VoIP - PSTN gateway end (bear in mind most current and short-term-future VoIP use will ultimately need to break out onto a PSTN network eventually) would probably be easier to implemnet consistently.

Maybe they'll settle on taxing PSTN bridging. (2, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 10 years ago | (#8965228)

Are we just talking about apps that mimic a telephone, or are we talking about all VoIP applications?

The sane thing to do would be to tax subscription VoIP/PSTN bridging. (PSTN = Public Switched Telephone Network.)

VoIP computer-to-computer connection is just another IP application. It lets you communicate with another computer user - but so does just about EVERY OTHER application on the Internet. (VoIP just happens to transmit voice, rather than the text streams of chat and IM, the compositions of email/blogs/web pages, the reference information of DNS, the "computer-as-person conversations" of telnet/rlogin/ssh, and so on.)

PSTN bridging creates a connection to the legacy telephone network, completing the emulation of the formaer service. You can use the "pay phone" model of outgoing calls only or the "customer line" model of a subscription that accepts PSTN calls to an assigned phone number. While it does have an Internet component, there's no question that it also has a PSTN component. It's also pretty clear that the PSTN component is the dominant functionality and the Internet component is just a new kind of "phone line" transport between the PSTN to the user.

So a logical thing to do would be to apply the tax to VoIP/PSTN bridging. This would leave pure IP applications untaxed, including computer-to-computer VoIP calls. And it would answer the fairness objections from the telephone companies.

= = = =

Alternatively, now might be a good time to review the tax structure on telephone service.

The tax to support the 911 service got hung on them as a convenient place to put it. The service was only available to telephone subscribers, so there was SOME fairness in that. But these days practically EVERYONE is a telephone subscriber, so fair allocation of the cost is not as much of an issue. And 911 is REALLY part of the dispatch functions of the emergency services (a convenience to replace fire/police callboxes and separate phone numbers for each service). It's not a necessary function of the telephone network. In fact, it's an expensive service provided BY the telephone network TO the emergency services. Shouldn't it be paid for out of the budgets of the services, rather than by a tax on phones (whose collection is ALSO a drain on the phone companies)?

Similarly, the rest of the taxes on phones are either related to specific telephone issues (funding regulatory boards, funds transfer between long-distance and local cariers related to the monopoly breakup, buying equipment for phone number portability) or yet another hidden government money grab on the consumer's pocket book for "public purposes" ("universal" and "lifeline" service subsidies, federal and local taxes). It's clearly appropriate to charge the phone-company specific fees to the phone company customers (and to VoIP/PSTN bridging customers SOLELY to the extent that they fund a function used by the bridgers as well). As for the rest: since the government isn't going to tax the Internet, it should take those taxes off the phone companies, too.

If the government wants to subsidize phone service for the poor, roll it into the welfare system (rather than soaking the other phone customers just because there's some mental resonance). If the government just wants to suck money out of the pockets of the citizens, lump it in with the other general taxes.

As for "universal service", why should the people in the cities pay for phones for people in the country? People in the cities moved there, and pay MUCH higher living costs, in order to be in closer communication with other people. If somebody in the boonies wants a wire strung 50 miles to get a benefit of city living in his lower-cost country location, let him pay for it. (Or get a cell phone and a cradle, and maybe a high-gain directional antenna, if he's within some services' coverage area.) There's no "Internet universal service" - and the government is trying to DEregulate local phone service and allow other entrants. So why must the phone companies still charge a fee to subsidise rural POTS?

With the phone company customers only getting dinged for PSTN related costs, the phone companies and VoIP services can compete strictly on the merits of their system designs and the related financial implications. If it turns out that the phone companies are STILL the worse deal, there'd be no more claims that they were failing because of unfair financial treatment by the government.

don't they understand the word "NO"? (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964213)

or are they proposing to use the proceeds to eliminate internet spam?

tax spam not consumer/user chosen communications... Or do I have to pay tax to say this?

Free Speech?

Re:don't they understand the word "NO"? (1)

SquierStrat (42516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964299)

Free speech means you can say whatever you want. The constitution does not guarantee a vehicle to use for that speech.

I agree about taxing spam. I say tax spam at a rate 2 times the current snail mail postage rate.

Re:don't they understand the word "NO"? (0, Flamebait)

kayen_telva (676872) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964474)

at a rate 2 times the current snail mail postage rate

you will need to to cover the infrastructure costs of such a stupid idea

Go home (0, Flamebait)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964220)

Are bullets taxed? im pretty sure bullets should have a heavey tax - say 150%? No? thought not, so dont tax the fucking internet you republican dick-head gun toting rednecks!

Re:Go home (-1, Offtopic)

SquierStrat (42516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964260)

I'm not a republican or a redneck and I own several guns. Bullets are taxed: sales tax.

The majority of bullets sold through normal channels (about 90% anyhow) are not used for anything but target practice, match shooting and hunting. 99% of bullets sold on the blackmarket (which are not taxed) are used for crime. If you create a heavy tax on bullets you'll end upw ith the same situation they have in NY with cigarettes: HUGE black market.

Re:Go home (1)

kayen_telva (676872) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964295)

I must have missed your point. If they tax ALL internet connections with a VoIP tax, where do you go for a "blackmarket" connection ??

Re:Go home (1)

SquierStrat (42516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964306)

My point was unrelated to the VoIP thing. I just thought his comment about bullets was a little ridiculous. You can tax VoIP without placing said tax over all internet connections.

Re:Go home (1)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964513)

Actually i was doing my best to troll, and yes VOIP will become a 'black market' because there is just no way to say "oh those encrypted packets over there, the're VOIP traffic lets tax them"

You got that backwards again. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 10 years ago | (#8965320)

Are bullets taxed? im pretty sure bullets should have a heavey tax - say 150%? No? thought not, so dont tax the fucking internet you republican dick-head gun toting rednecks!

Last time I looked it was the Republicans that were trying to keep the taxes off the Internet (free market, create wealth, etc.) and the Democrats that were thirsting for another source of tax money.

= = = =

But of course the lefties are ALWAYS accusing their opposition of their own sins. It serves as a preemptive strike (so somebody who later points out the lefties' misbehavior looks like a "No, HE did it!" playground finger-pointer). And they place no value on honesty: Winning the argument with a lie is considered "intelligent" rather than "reprehensible". (I'd have said "dishonest" - but then lefties wouldn't understand that I meant something bad. B-) )

As for "Rednecks": Apparently, despite all their other rhetoric, lefites think racial and ethnic slurs are fair game if directed at the rural working class. (And I bet he either doesn't know or care that the term includes a reference to the assimilated indians and part-indians that form a significant component of it.)

full article (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8964233)

site slashdotted so here is full article

U.S. Version:

Dear Internet Subscriber:

Please read the following carefully if you intend to stay online and continue using email: The last few months have revealed an alarming trend in the Government of the United States attempting to quietly push through legislation that will affect your use of the Internet. Under proposed legislation the U.S. Postal Service will be attempting to bilk email users out of "alternate postage fees".

Bill 602P will permit the Federal Govt to charge a 5 cent surcharge on every email delivered, by billing Internet Service Providers at source. The consumer would then be billed in turn by the ISP. Washington D.C. lawyer Richard Stepp is working without pay to prevent this legislation from becoming law.

The U.S. Postal Service is claiming that lost revenue due to the proliferation of email is costing nearly $230,000,000 in revenue per year. You may have noticed their recent ad campaign "There is nothing like a letter". Since the average citizen received about 10 pieces of email per day in 1998, the cost to the typical individual would be an additional 50 cents per day, or over $180 dollars per year, above and beyond their regular Internet costs. Note that this would be money paid directly to the U.S. Postal Service for a service they do not even provide. The whole point of the Internet is democracy and non-interference. If the federal government is permitted to tamper with our liberties by adding a surcharge to email, who knows where it will end. You are already paying an exorbitant price for snail mail because of bureacratic efficiency. It currently takes up to 6 days for a letter to be delivered from New York to Buffalo. If the U.S. Postal Service is allowed to tinker with email, it will mark the end of the "free" Internet in the United States. One congressman, Tony Schnell (r) has even suggested a "twenty to forty dollar per month surcharge on all Internet service" above and beyond the government's proposed email charges. Note that most of the major newspapers have ignored the story, the only exception being the Washingtonian which called the idea of email surcharge "a useful concept who's time has come" March 6th 1999 Editorial) Don't sit by and watch your freedoms erode away!

Send this email to all Americans on your list and tell your friends and relatives to write to their congressman and say "No!" to Bill 602P.

Kate Turner
Assistant to Richard Stepp
Berger, Stepp and Gorman
Attorneys at Law
216 Concorde Street,
Vienna, Va.

Canadian Version:

Please read the following carefully if you intend to stay online and continue using email:

The last few months have revealed an alarming trend in the Government of Canada attempting to quietly push through legislation that will affect your use of the Internet. Under proposed legislation Canada Post will be attempting to bilk email users out of "alternate postage fees".

Bill 602P will permit the Federal Govt to charge a 5 cent surcharge on every email delivered, by billing Internet Service Providers at source. The consumer would then be billed in turn by the ISP. Toronto lawyer Richard Stepp QC is working without pay to prevent this legislation from becoming law.

The Canada Post Corporation is claiming that lost revenue due to the proliferation of email is costing nearly $23,000,000 in revenue per year. You may have noticed Canada Post's recent ad campaign "There is nothing like a letter". Since the average citizen received about 10 pieces of email per day in 1998, the cost to the typical individual would be an additional 50 cents per day, or over $180 dollars per year, above and beyond their regular Internet costs. Note that this would be money paid directly to Canada Post for a service they do not even provide. The whole point of the Internet is democracy and non-interference. If the Canadian Government is permitted to tamper with our liberties by adding a surcharge to email, who knows where it will end. You are already paying an exhorbitant price for snail mail because of beaurocratic inefficiency. It currently takes up to 6 days for a letter to be delivered from Mississauga to Scarborough. If Canada Post Corporation is allowed to tinker with email, it will mark the end of the "free" Internet in Canada. One back-bencher, Liberal Tony Schnell (NB) has even suggested a "twenty to forty dollar per month surcharge on all Internet service" above and beyond the government's proposed email charges. Note that most of the major newspapers have ignored the story, the only exception being the Toronto Star that called the idea of email surcharge "a useful concept who's time has come" (March 6th 1999 Editorial) Don't sit by and watch your freedoms erode away! Send this email to all Canadians on your list and tell your friends and relatives to write to their MP and say "No!" to Bill 602P.

Kate Turner
Assistant to Richard Stepp QC
Berger, Stepp and Gorman
Barristers at Law
216 Bay Street
Toronto, ON
MlL 3C6

More recent versions:

TOLL CHARGE FOR EMAIL. CNN has reported that within the next two weeks Congress is going to vote on allowing telephone companies to CHARGE A TOLL FEE for Internet access. Translation: Every time we send a long distance e-mail we will receive a long distance charge. This will get costly.

Please visit the following web site and file a complaint. Complain to your Congressperson.

We can't allow this to pass!

The following address will allow you to send an e-mail on this subject DIRECTLY to your Congressperson.

(Link deleted - Ed.)

Pass this on to your friends. It is urgent!

I hope all of you will pass this on to all your friends and family. We should ALL have an interest in this one.

WAIT, THERE'S MORE. IN ADDITION, the last few months have revealed an alarming trend in the Government of the United States attempting to quietly push through legislation that will affect your use of the Internet. Under proposed legislation the U.S. Postal Service will be attempting to bill email users out of "alternate postage fees". Bill 602P will permit the Federal Govt toncharge a 5 cent surcharge on every email delivered, by billing Internet Service Providers at source. The consumer would then be billed in turn by the ISP.

Washington D.C. lawyer Richard Stepp is working without pay to prevent this legislation from becoming law. The U.S. Postal Service is claiming that lost revenue due to the proliferation of email is costing nearly $230,000,000 in revenue per year. You may have noticed their recent ad campaign, "There is nothing like a letter". Since the average citizen received about 10 pieces of email per day in 1998, the cost to the typical individual would be an additional 50 cents per day, or over $180 dollars per year, above and beyond their regular Internet costs. Note that this would be money paid directly to the U.S. Postal Service for a service they do not even provide. The whole point of the Internet is democracy and noninterference. If the federal government is permitted to tamper with our liberties by adding a surcharge to email, who knows where it will end. You are already paying an exorbitant price for snail mail because of bureaucratic inefficiency. It currently takes up to 6 days for a letter to be delivered from New York to Buffalo. If the U.S. Postal Service is allowed to tinker with email, it will mark the end of the "free" Internet in the United States. One congressman, Tony Schnell has even suggested a "twenty to forty dollar per month surcharge on all Internet service" above and beyond the government's proposed email charges. Note that most of the major newspapers have ignored the story, the only exception being the Washingtonian which called the idea of email surcharge "a useful concept who's time has come" (March 6th, 1999)Editorial.

Another version:

We Knew this was coming!! Bill 602P will permit the Federal Govt. to charge a 5 cent charge on every delivered email. Please read the following carefully if you intend to stay online and continue using E-mail: The last few months have revealed an alarming trend in the Government of the United States attempting to quietly push through legislation that will affect your use of the Internet.

Under proposed legislation the US Postal Service will be attempting to bill E-mail users out of "alternate postage fees." Bill 602P will permit the Federal Govt. to charge a 5 cent surcharge on every E-mail delivered, by billing Internet Service Providers at source. The consumer would then be billed in turn by the ISP. Washington DC lawyer Richard Stepp is working without pay to prevent this legislation from becoming law. The US Postal Service is claiming that lost revenue due to the proliferation of email is costing nearly $230,000,000 in revenue per year. You may have seen their recent ad campaign "There is nothing like a letter." Since the average received about 10 pieces of email per day in 1998, the cost to the typical individual would be an additional 50 cents per day, or over $180 dollars per year, above and beyond their regular Internet costs.

Note that this would be money paid directly to the US Postal Service for a service they do not even provide.

The whole point of the Internet is democracy and non-interference. If the federal government is permitted to tamper with end. You are already paying an exorbitant price for snail mail because of bureaucratic efficiency.

It currently takes up to 6 days for a letter to be delivered from New York to Buffalo. If the US Postal Service is allowed to tinker with email, it will mark the end of the "free" Internet in the United States

One Congressman, Tony Schnell (r) has even suggested a "twenty to forty dollar per month surcharge on all Internet service" above and beyond the government's proposed email charges. Note that most of the major newspapers have ignored the story, the only exception being the Washingtonian which called the idea of email surcharge "a useful concept who's time has come" (March 6th 1999 Editorial).

Don't sit by and watch your freedoms erode away! Send this link to EVERYONE on your list, and tell all your friends and relatives. It will only take a few moments of your time, and could very well be instrumental in killing a bill we don't want.

Use this link and vote NO on BILL 602P.

(Link deleted - Ed.)

Nice try (3, Informative)

sploo22 (748838) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964256)

Erm, yeah... except that's a four-year-old HOAX [urbanlegends.com] !

They might be right (3, Interesting)

SquierStrat (42516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964237)

I'm not saying what I think they should do. But I'm going to play devil's advocate and say they might have a point. VoIP isn't the internet. It is a service. VoIP isn't necesarilly an international domain thing. It's really not all that different from any other telephone service. It would be like them placing a 1 dollar a month user-fee on ISP's services. Not the same as putting a sales tax on internet goods, or taxing it based on usage, or charging for e-mails. I beleive the term politicians use is "luxury tax." Would no doubt bring in huge revenues.

Like I said, I'm just playing devil's advocate.

Re:They might be right (2, Interesting)

nkh (750837) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964325)

VoIP means "Voice Over IP", and IP means "the Internet".
VoIP can be coded in a software (which can be Free, as in Free Beer), and that's why it is neither a good, nor a service.

Re:They might be right (3, Insightful)

cibus (670787) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964383)

One has already paied for the bandwidth one uses for VoIP. Thats what differs it so much from normal telephony.
If some service provider wants to charge for a VoIP service then this provider should be taxed... but for regular "free" services taxing makes no sense.
Whats next... HTTP taxing??

Skype? (4, Interesting)

Locky (608008) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964248)

Skype [skype.com] is a P2P VoIP application that is independant of any central servers, has great quality audio, NAT, etc.

How exactly do they intend to regulate the unregulatable?

Re:Skype? (1)

sploo22 (748838) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964273)

Simple. All they have to do is get the IP to monitor the traffic and bill you. This would also make it pretty uneconomical to run a free proxy like they describe, so you can say bye-bye to the firewall traversal feature.

Re:Skype? (1)

sploo22 (748838) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964293)

Oops, I meant ISP not IP.

Re:Skype? (1)

nkh (750837) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964302)

They can't and won't monitor encrypted traffic because cryptography can be done in real time now (a small Diffie-Hellman IIRC and they're fscked), that's why they will bill everyone in the end...

Re:Skype? (2, Interesting)

sploo22 (748838) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964329)

Good point, but if the packets use a predefined protocol they'll still be able to do traffic analysis, even if they can't decode the data. Just scan for the headers and bill people per packet.

I guess you could get around this by using IPsec, OTOH.

Re:Skype? (1)

kayen_telva (676872) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964287)

tax all internet connections, just like federal taxes on POTS lines. In other words, everybody will pay whether it benefits them or not.

Re:Skype? (3, Insightful)

WindowlessView (703773) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964558)

-->How exactly do they intend to regulate the unregulatable?

They don't. Even the pols aren't that stupid. What they will end up doing is taxing any applications that interface and crossover to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). The last time I looked Skype did not do this (and now probably won't ever do so).

I wonder why (5, Insightful)

cluge (114877) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964249)

Lets see - the large RBOC's and ILEC's have convinced the FCC that UNEP should be killed. God forbid that everyone has access to the infrastructure that your tax dollar helped build. Considering that many of the RBOC's are loosing money on DSL - it makes a lot of sense to not have competition in the area.

These same people have been working very hard and were able to convince some PSC that rate hikes were in order. [This besides the fact that they had highly profitable quarters even during the economic down turn] Thus stuffing the war chests of the big guys, helping them roll out their "loss leaders" in an effort to crush any competition.

Now they are agitating for VoIP with no taxes. Why? Simple. They've finally agreed to come to the party. Many companies have been doing VoIP for some time, and the idea that VoIP would be taxed has been held out, but now that the RBOC's and ILECS all have made major VoIP announcements suddenly we're considering legislation! IMAGNINE THAT!

At VON this year everyone was screaming that the government should take a "hand off approach". This included a rep from the FCC, AT&T legal, california and florida PSD reps. No one wants to "kill the goose that lays the golden egg". From my POV that is ideal. Let us compete and we will crush the inefficient, lazy, technically inept RBOC and ILECS. The problem is that I don't see this hands off approach staying that way. The FCC and california PSC guy hinted that some sort fo universal access fee may be in order. The other thing that was strongly hinted at is that the state's are going to loose a larege source of recouring revenue that they can't afford to loose. so a state tax may be considered.

In the end, I see VoIP taxes heading the same way as our current PSC and FCC. Favor the big guy (ie campaign contributers), and lets not have too much competition. It wasn't more than 2 years ago when somone said that VoIP will take 2 decades to become mainstream. Sprint, AT&T, Bell South and Verizon will all be switching voice at their cores within 7.

This bill is a step in the right direction. Lets see if the congress can keep the playing field even. If they do - the RBOC's and ILECs are in trouble unless they make some fundemental changes to their corporate cultures. I bet they will protect their little fiefdoms - look for modified legislation in the next 12-18 months to give them a leg up. (As if their monopoly's weren't enough)

cluge
AngryPeopleRule [angrypeoplerule.com]

Anonymous sources have told me that... (4, Funny)

PsiPsiStar (95676) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964319)

... this guy gets paid by the acronym.

Re:Anonymous sources have told me that... (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964652)

Usually I can muddle through jargon and acronyms, but that was a bit much. It's more work than I care to expend to figure out if that post was a joke or legitimate.

Re:I wonder why (1)

241comp (535228) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964564)

Lets see - the large RBOC's and ILEC's have convinced the FCC that UNEP should be killed. God forbid that everyone has access to the infrastructure that your tax dollar helped build.

Not exactly. UNE-P is still around. The problem with it is that the ILEC's are forced to sell service under UNE-P to CLEC's at around 65% of cost. That means for every UNE-P line they sell, it costs them more money to keep up the copper/offices than they got for the line. That leads to less desire to provide it and less quality service. If they even made a little profit (say 5%) then they would want UNE-P.

Let us compete and we will crush the inefficient, lazy, technically inept RBOC and ILECS.

Exactly - let VOIP run it's course and if the ILEC's don't adapt then so be it. That's the basis for capitalism.

Sprint, AT&T, Bell South and Verizon will all be switching voice at their cores within 7.

This is true except you seem to indicate that because they are using packet switching for voice then they are using VOIP. This is wrong - most of these companies are still staying away from IP because of COS and priority issues. Most use ATM/Sonet or something similar. Yes packet switching - no IP. Sprint is already doing so at dozens of switch sites but it certainly won't be the entire network within 7 years.

SBC sues ATT over VoIP (1)

stecoop (759508) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964641)

In a related [yahoo.com] story SBC is suing ATT for avoiding fees associated with VoIP call transportation. Apparently SBC doesn't mind VoIP as long as they get paid for using their infrastructure or is it that SBC sees VoIP as a threat to their LD and Local services?

Here is the full article for those of you too tired to click through:

SBC Sues AT&T Over Internet Phone Fees
Fri Apr 23, 4:56 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - SBC Communications Inc., (NYSE:SBC) the second-largest U.S. local phone company, has sued long-distance giant AT&T Corp. (NYSE:T) claiming it avoided paying at least $141 million in connection fees for calls carried partly over the Internet.

The lawsuit by SBC, filed in a St. Louis federal court on Thursday, follows a ruling by federal regulators a day earlier that AT&T was improperly deeming long-distance calls it carried over the Internet as local calls and paying local phone companies lower fees than normal.

SBC "seeks not only to recover the exchange access charges that AT&T has unlawfully avoided -- which SBC estimates to be at least $141 million and possibly much more -- but also to enjoin AT&T from perpetuating its unlawful conduct," the lawsuit said.

An AT&T spokeswoman said the company did not comment on pending lawsuits, but that it would defend its case vigorously.

The decision by the Federal Communications Commission was seen as a win for local phone companies like SBC, as the FCC rejected AT&T's argument that calls that travel even partially over the Internet are not subject to higher FCC-mandated access charges.

AT&T criticized the FCC's ruling when it was released, and told analysts on Thursday that it did not expect to have to pay back charges from the ruling. It also said additional costs from the ruling would be less than $100 million a year, compared with the $9 billion a year it usually pays local phone companies for connection charges.

The FCC sought to distinguish AT&T's tactic from other Internet phone services, based on technology known as voice over Internet protocol, or VOIP. Those services offer phone calls over high-speed Internet connections, at a far lower cost than traditional phone service.

AT&T's strategy converts traditional phone calls to data so they can be carried on its Internet backbone, and was not noticeable to consumers

Explanation of Acronyms (1)

PetoskeyGuy (648788) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964886)

That was a confusing post. Here are the acronyms in the order they were presented. Now if someone would just say what they mean in this context. I found several possibilities for some of them.

RBOC: Regional Bell Operating Company [google.com]
ILEC: Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers [google.com]
FCC: Federal Communications Commission [google.com]
UNEP: United Nations Environment Programme [google.com] ??
DSL: Digital Subscriber Line [google.com]
PSC: ??
VoIP: Voice of IP [google.com] - Internet Phone calls
VON: Voice Over Net coallition [von.org]
PSD: ??
POV: Point of View

Hopefully someone can tell me if I've got those terms right and what the missing ones stand for. If not I guess I'm SOL. ;)

Re:Explanation of Acronyms (1)

WindowlessView (703773) | more than 10 years ago | (#8965127)

-->UNEP: United Nations Environment Programme??

I think this was meant to be UNE-P - Unbundled Network Element Platform, basically where CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers) must be able to rent equipment from ILECS.

-->PSC: ??

Public Service Commission

-->PSD: ??

Prevention of Significant Deterioration? I think this might be an EPA/state environmental entity?

Stop Taxing my electrons... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8964259)

If they tax our electrons, they should be paid in photons!

"Enclosed is my tax payment - you will find 1 blue LED and a battery. Turn it on and let it glow. At the end of the battery life my internet taxes will be paid in full, in several billion photons."

I think you still might be able to pay taxes in live chickens, but
that would be so unfair to the chickens!

What I would really like for VoIP... (4, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964262)

...is to use the recent short-range band (Bluetooth, WLAN, direct phone-phone connections et al) to turn my cell phone into a landline w/wireless, when in range. That would be a real boon for IP telephony. VoIP with headset or specialized IP-capable phones have their use, but if you could use any cell phone the market would explode.

Kjella

Re:What I would really like for VoIP... (1)

kayen_telva (676872) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964501)

Awesome point, and in fact, some computer based pbx systems implement something similar. By pluggin a cell phone into a special cradle and the cradle into a port on the pbx, anybody with an extension on the pbx can make outgoing calls on that cell phone.
The cell phone becomes a "trunk".

You are right, once things like this become more common the market will explode.
Plus its just cool as hell.

IP law is not the enemy? (4, Insightful)

poptones (653660) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964274)

All this time we keep focusing on how bad IP law is going to keep us in the technological dark ages compared to our more adaptable evolutionary cousins abroad - but really it's looking more and more like the tax-mad politicians are the true enemies of evolution. It was easy to look at the nonsense going on in India with the government attempting to ban IP telephony and criticise, but it appears our own politicians are determined to prove once and for all India (has) had nothing on us.

Re:IP law is not the enemy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8964877)

Look man, the US had it's run, and now, like Rome and so many other civilizations before it, the US elite are working on hording all they can while they leave the rest of us to the barbarians...

They mouth the idea of free trade and then make sure it is inequitable for the common man, unless he is a consumer... but he will be a temporary consumer as his money, job, and future oppurtunities head over seas...

We WILL accept that we ourselves ARE our worst enemies, and it will be to late for most of us.

Greed and short sightedness will deliver technologies into the hands of our enemies, our incomes into the hands of our enemies, and indeed our very freedoms of movement and conversation into the hands of enemies.

If they are applications... (2, Funny)

crem_d_genes (726860) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964279)

and the FCC is still in on the act [eweek.com] - then will the user licenses have *decency clauses* [pnnonline.org] written into them?

the chaos of law (4, Insightful)

plnrtrvlr (557800) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964291)

You can see all kinds of examples of how, over the years, our lawmakers have tried to govern all kinds of things that they didn't understand. If you want a good example of how the laws governing the internet will look in fifty years, go wander around among the laws governing the environment for a while, or the regulations under which the FDA operates, or anywhere else that the government tries to regulate a scientific or technical issue. These people are lawmakers, not scientists or engineers, and aside from the fact that they simply do not understand what it is they are trying to regulate, they are not really listening to anyone who does understand either. The primary focus of a lawmakers attentions are on their own wallets, followed by those people who see a profit to be made or lost, and lastly by those blocks of voters who might be able to march together under some doomsday banner of dire predictions. I don't want to sound like I'm advocating anarchy, because some degree of regulation is needed on the internet (think child porn or DDoS attacks) but the more we allow the government to regulate, the more confusing and contradictory the regulations will become. Thinking just in this cae, they might tax VoIP now, with half a dozen exceptions to exempt games for instance, only to have to pass new laws later to close loopholes and make new exemptions, until such a time as when a game-maker may need to pay a lawer a weeks worth of wages just so he can safely publish his work. I can only see internet taxes working as an all or nothing deal if we're going to avoid a tax code that would be 10 times as confusing as the most complicated codes we have now. Think some flat (2% maybe?) tax on all goods and services that would be collected by a federal department and redistributed to the states by percentage of what was actually sold in a state. If we just let the lawmakers go according to whim the resulting tax code will choke anyone who wants to do business with or on the internet. Not that I'm fond of the idea of another tax or another governmentl department to administer it.....

The law of CHAOS (1)

PsiPsiStar (95676) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964331)

... or imagine no regulation on the internet, and using DDoS attacks to get rid of child porn.

Technically, how would this be possible? (4, Interesting)

zogger (617870) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964327)

How could they do this without monitoring all data streams extensively, and determing somehow "gee, this is voice and this isn't", etc. And tracing them to individual IP addresses? Just throw some random numbers at the whole internet? I mean, speech (and video) between people over the net has been around a long time, CUSEEME as an example.

This sounds more like some sort of random tax that still won't allow what you want to do with your machine, just like the blank CD tax/fees you pay still won't let you completely off the hook with the RIAA MPAA goons and their pet legislation they inspired, even though it was supposed to.

The only way to keep the net free is just that, no taxes on it for any reason. It's slippery slope, once the government gets a money toe hold on it, eventually it will be highly regulated.

And speaking of taxes and unnecessary fees, why can't we get unbundled POTS yet? Why do I have to pay all these ridiculous fees I see on my phone bill to use a phone line just for the net? I don't use it for anything but net access. I certainly can't get unbundled copper, no negotiations there as far as I know without jumping through a ton of ridiculous hoops and expense. I guess what I am asking is, why can't I be my own isp with just a pair of copper wires, why do I need all the extra fees and go through someone who has a fat pipe, is there any technical reason they can't throw some switches, etc, and just let me use PPP? Is this an artifical blockade they put on it? I honestly don't know the answer to that, not familiar enough with how it is set up at the local telco or how this is arranged beyond getting an assigned IP and/or domain name and IP. Would it be technically possible to just buy an IP directly, and eliminate a couple of middleman steps? I've never worked at an ISP or anything so I don't know what steps are involved with access and hardware and software and protocols.

Re:Technically, how would this be possible? (1)

Duck2Man (675096) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964354)

With enough money anything technical is possiable. Given the lengths the IRS now goes to for a few dollars tax and many more dollars of penalty, I can envision the H-O-W, High-capacity Online Where-finder. After all it will be your money financing the program.

Re:Technically, how would this be possible? (1)

takev (214836) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964411)

Technically you can start your own internet.
You just start off with a couple of computers and give them a couple of IP addresses. There are two ways to go about this: completely on your own and just pick some number out of thin air (but you will not be compatible with the current Internet) or get a range from IANA (with IPv6 there are anough to get it straight from the horses mouth).

Now you connect your neighbour's computers to your own with ethernet and two routers. Now in most countries you may not lay cables above or below the street without the nessesary permits, but we have wifi for that. Now, those neighbours will connect to their neighbours, etc.

And slowly as more people get connected like this to your internet, without paying a telco a single dime, you will slowly replace the current Internet.

With the current wifi technology and grid networking getting more mature, this may become the end of telcos.

Re:Technically, how would this be possible? (1)

kayen_telva (676872) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964524)

Why would they get into all that when they can just tax all internet connections equally ? A flat VoIP tax avoids all of that technical crap and gets them what they want. Revenue.

States like mine in a quandry (4, Insightful)

adzoox (615327) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964343)

So what do states like mine (South Carolina) really want?

Our govenor says that promoting small business and entrepreneurs is the key while attracting big companies like BMW.

Yet, taxing VoIP is against the sentiment entirely. I know that telephony (especially on the business side) is a VERY expensive part of my overhead. I plan on switching to Vonage soon. Taxing it would make it less of an advantage vs regular phone service.

So either our goverments want it easier to for small business to succeed due to the reduction of overhead costs that the internet brings or they don't.

It goes the same for taxes in general over the internet. Not having to collect and send in sales taxes is HUGE relief of manpower!

Re:States like mine in a quandry (2, Insightful)

gooberguy (453295) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964940)

I think your governor might be lying just so he can get more votes while still receiving donations from larger companies (like the telephone company). Lying ,in general, is pretty common among politicians. They can even lie and stay in office. Look at Nethercutt (a representative from Washington). He promised to stay in office for only three terms, but he was doing such a good job that he ran for office again, and won again. In that case it wasn't really a bad thing since most of the people loved him, but there are many other examples that are much worse.

This could never happen in Holland (0, Troll)

larrylemur (772795) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964357)

Ze noemen ons de bouters het zit ons echt niet mee We willen graag beroemd zijn van Fillem en TV We zijn te groot voor smurfen Als Laaf zijn we te klein dus niemand wil ons hebben hoe grappig we ook zijn Bouterdart doet ons echt geen pijn. We kunnen niet goed stilstaan we springen in het rond dat maakt ons ongeschikt als beeldje op de grond Wij bouters zijn dus werkloos wij snappen niet waarom we zijn een vrolijk volkje en helemaal niet dom! Bouterdart doet maar even pijn. Plop kon ons niet uitstaan, dat is zo'n saaie vent we waren veel te druk dat is-tie niet gewend. We kunnen niet goed zingen, dus Disney werd het niet. Die wilde alleen bassen in zijn kabouterlied.

Translation: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8964453)

They do not call us the bouters is gladly favourable our real we want boasted be of Fillem and TV we to be too large for smurfen if slake its we too small therefore nobody wants our has how do funny we also its Bouterdart our real no pain. We can stand still not well we to jump in around that do not make our unsuitable as a figurine on the ground we bouters are therefore unemployed we get why we are lively volkje and not at all stupid! But Bouterdart do even pain. Plop could not us stand that zo'n insipid vent is we was much too busy that is-tie not got used. We can sing not well, therefore Disney did not become it. Those wild only basses in its gnome song.

Idea for government (-1, Offtopic)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964396)

How about's ya stop spending billions commiting warcrimes [that are so blatant that the daily show makes fun of on a.... daily basis!] and say.... invest the money into industries OTHER than munitions?

Just a thought... me thinks if you didn't spend 5x the money you spend on education each year on war you wouldn't have 10k/year tuition, no healthcare or such....

I know the concept of "not being a war nation" is new to most politicians but really it's about time you give it a chance. I'd love to see the US have a military of say 100k max ... that would put things into perspective...

Tom

VOIP (2, Informative)

maitai (46370) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964504)

I think people are being to broad with their interpretation of VOIP. When I think of VOIP I think of SIP, H232, Telephony over IP, etc. I don't consider say, Unreal Tournament 2004's voice support as VOIP.

In that regard, if they want to tax VOIP providers as they do normal telco's I don't have a complaint, I'd assume that'd just be a given. But if they want to try and tax every program that could possibly send speech over the net then I'd be a bit annoyed (to put it lightly)

I wouldn't consider Skype, Teamspeak, etc as VOIP from my point of view, I think of them as just another chat program. If it can tie into my phone, or someone elses, then it's VOIP.

My Vonage account has recently had a new $1 tax added to it, so...

"On The Internet" should be irrelevant (3, Insightful)

frankie (91710) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964556)

Why is this so damn difficult for most people to understand?
  1. Commerce "on the internet" should be treated exactly the same way as all other forms of non-local commerce (phone, fax, mail order, etc).
  2. If you think we need a rule #2, please refer to rule #1.

Re:"On The Internet" should be irrelevant (1)

theAmazing10.t (770643) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964666)

The problem with that is how do WE know what commerce you are performing "on the Internet". Though I guess we could put in a "clipper" type chip to find out?

A packet is a packet, is a packet. What packet are you little boy?

Re:"On The Internet" should be irrelevant (1)

frankie (91710) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964713)

how do WE know what commerce you are performing "on the Internet".

In case you hadn't noticed, the tax man doesn't have little spy monitors in phone, fax, mail, shopping malls, ice cream trucks, etc, either. We know about the commerce when the money changes hands and the business reports it. It's all the same thing.

Re:"On The Internet" should be irrelevant (1)

theAmazing10.t (770643) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964809)

But these are hardwired areas. You get taxed on your phone bill because you are using the phone companies line, you are taxed at the mall because you are at the mall and bought something.

A packet is a packet. Other than using some specific protocol or server there is no way to determine what is the ultimate design for that packet. Unless of course you want your ISP, Government, ectera, ectera to monitor every damn packet you send, where you send it to and what it does.

The only way they know you bought something on the Internet is that some place registered that you sent such and such amount for such and such item. They don't know it because you sent a POST from a web page. So other than having a specific place that you have to transmit your VoIP to and from, how do they know you are doing VoIP? Especially since money is not necessarily changing hands.

Re:"On The Internet" should be irrelevant (1)

arkanes (521690) | more than 10 years ago | (#8965244)

You're totally correct. Thats why this is a tax on VOIP systems like Vonage that interact with POTS, and they would be taxed at the point where the interact with the normal telephone system.

Re:"On The Internet" should be irrelevant (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 10 years ago | (#8965340)

The business reports it, plain and simple, just like they do with retail stores. It couldn't be any easier. And the online businesses should just keep track of what state everything goes to. A Net tax is easy, and should absolutely, definitely be enforced.

Re:"On The Internet" should be irrelevant (1)

1ucius (697592) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964750)

Definately agree, but another problem is that states need can only tax an entity if they have legal jurisdication over it. Jurisdiction, in turn, generally requires some physical presence in that state. This has been a difficult standard for to meet for internet and catalog-based commerce.

Hmm? Taxing a particular kind of software? (1)

Famatra (669740) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964596)

"House and Senate bills that define VoIP as a software application have already been introduced but may not be voted on before the Internet tax vote."

I wonder how they will collect the tax on an open source / free software version of a VoIP application?

15% of $0.00? Here's your 'tax' Mr./Ms. senator ;).

I'm not sure if tax on a particular kind of software has ever been done before? I don't think it will work out that great in this case.

A Moving Target (1)

theAmazing10.t (770643) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964618)

The Gov. needs to stop chasing shadows when it comes to the Internet. Just because an application or Web product provides the same function as something else does not make it that something else.

Taxes are used by the government to level a playing field, reduce the impact or reduce the desirablity of something. Liquor and cigarettes are heavly taxed to help pay for the gov. services used because of those products and to reduce their desirablity.

With the Internet you have a slightly different problem. The gov wants you to be using it, for a number of reasons. But they also see it as a revenue generator for them or at least a place that revenue can be lost because of switching from other revenue generators. I.e.. sales tax and now communication taxes. But the problem is they don't understand what the Internet is, so they keep arguing about whether or not to tax this part of it, or some other part of it. But this is sheer stupidity. The 'Net has yet to fully define itself. It keeps on morphing every day into some differnet functionality. Who would have thought when the 'Web came into being, in the 80's that it would be used to affect the music industry.

The only thing certain in this life is death and taxes. The Internet or portions of the Internet are going to get taxed, but how is the big problem.

Re:A Moving Target (2, Insightful)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964722)

we pay communication taxes on the internet service!
and on my phone line which my DSL is on.

I pay about $20 a month just in taxes for my phone+DSL.

taxing VOIP is ridiculous since you're still paying taxes on the internet service.

as for sales tax on the web, we're still dodging that bullet.

adding it would seriously decrease website revenues.

VOIP companies will move overseas (1)

mmerlin (20312) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964796)

If VOIP starts being taxed in the USA, I predict VOIP companies will move their operations overseas.

Joe Consumer and his buddies in the USA will then download their VOIP software from Europe, Asia, Australia, and route their calls through VOIP servers located overseas.

Wouldn't this make it a bit more difficult for the USA to impose a tax on VOIP?

Re:VOIP companies will move overseas (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 10 years ago | (#8965035)

I think the problem is right now the PSTN companies have figured out a way to bypass long distance charges for long distance calls. They use VoIP to move the call from one area to another. It has nothing to do with individual use of VoIP, it has everything to do with Sprint switching voice calls over the Internet rather than a line leased from MCI. The line leased from MCI is taxed, regulated and metered. The Internet isn't.

It is also important to understand that local phone service is cheap because of long distance phone service being charged as it is. If you destroy long distance charges (as VoIP currently being used would do), the facilities are going to have to be paid for somehow. Right now, we don't see it because of cost shifting.

This is all about finding a loophole and getting something for nothing. They want to close the loophole. I don't see any other way to resolve this without restructuring all wired communications in the US.

Interstate Vs Intrastate Commerce (1, Informative)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964888)

As long as internet traffic is intrastate, the federal government has no authority, under currently enforced court interpretations of the Constitution, to ban an internet tax.

The original article starts:

The U.S. Senate is slated to vote this week whether or not to renew a ban that keeps state and local governments from taxing Internet access.

This is a violation of the interstate commerce clause of the US Constitution [findarticles.com] which grants the Federal government only the power:

To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;
The 14th Amendment [wikipedia.org] , which many have attempted to extend to totally eliminate all state soveriegnty, has, for example, been interpreted not even to protect basic enumerated rights [cornell.edu] . An example is, the right kee and to bear arms with military utility. The federal courts have ruled States have a right to violate this enumerated right because the bill of rights doesn't fall under any of the enumerated powers of the Constitution, nor does it fall under any of the specifically mentioned rights to be protected under the 14th Amendment. See Quilici v. Village of Morton Grove, 695 F. 2d 261 (7th Cir. 1982), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 863 (1983) [cmu.edu] .

Isn't it already taxed? (2, Interesting)

no_such_user (196771) | more than 10 years ago | (#8965052)

Because it'd be near impossible to meter, it's unreasonable to expect VOIP-to-VOIP traffic to be regulated and taxed. However, VOIP which peers with the PSTN (i.e. the phone company) is a much easier target. But aren't taxes already being collected here? For each phone number assigned to a VOIP device, the party providing you with service (i.e. voice ISP, such as Vonage) needs to get a PRI or similar hookup to the phone system. Doesn't that get taxed? And what about sales tax? An argument could be made that wherever the VOIP provider has POPs, they could charge sales tax. And don't I already pay taxes to my ISP for my internet connection?

I'm not against taxes - I'm against excessive, stupid taxes. Like paying an E911 tax, only to find out [usatoday.com] that the money collected is going towards office supplies, dry cleaning, cars, etc. Or paying over 20% tax on my cell phone service.

The Supreme Court said it best (1)

ShatteredDream (636520) | more than 10 years ago | (#8965191)

When they ruled against Maryland saying that a state cannot tax a federal agency because..... (and it applys to everything) "the power to tax is the power to destroy."

The States See Another Cash-Cow Disappearing (3, Insightful)

ZPO (465615) | more than 10 years ago | (#8965212)

The key can be found in the article...
--
"It's the threat and the possibility that all of these services could migrate to the Internet," said Alexander's aide. "As services migrate to the Internet, you could bundle these services, and the telecom taxes that states currently collect they could no longer collect." -- Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
--

This is simply about the states being afraid of losing a very lucrative revenue source. The thought behind it has nothing to do with with the implementation, the technical reasons for VoIP deployment, or even whether its a Bad Idea (TM) or not. Its all about maintaining tax revenue for the state.

There are legions of accoutants, lawyers, and beauracrats in every state (hell, in every level of government) looking for things that might be taxed to generate revenue. It has nothing to do with whether the tax is smart, appropriate, or germane. Its about finding sources of revenue to support state spending.
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