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FCC Approves New Internet Phone Taxes

ScuttleMonkey posted about 8 years ago | from the always-a-new-tax-never-a-missing-tax dept.

230

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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230 comments

Trust the FCC... (5, Insightful)

Bruce McBruce (791094) | about 8 years ago | (#15596687)

To think up a way of taxing virtually-free phone calls.

Re:Trust the FCC... (4, Insightful)

ZoneGray (168419) | about 8 years ago | (#15596752)

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.

Re:Trust the FCC... (2, Insightful)

maird (699535) | about 8 years ago | (#15596846)

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.

Re:Trust the FCC... (2, Insightful)

ZoneGray (168419) | about 8 years ago | (#15597238)

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?

Re:Trust the FCC... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15597116)

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

yeah, im not in the USA, but it sounds pretty crazy to protect the likes of At&T. but who cares - look at Microsoft. no one's talking about a legal bribe paid by the microsoft to the state for closing the door on ODF!!! its *ucking crazy. its an open bribe, and its accepted by everyone in the world, what crap. elsewhere in the 3rd world countries, they bribe the governments with impunity BTW. the indians trying to make the ODF as an officially endorsed format, i bet MSFT will buy they way thru the whole thing. its probably the indian politicians are smart - and they are flashing the ODF card to get more bribes and incentives!!!!

Re:Trust the FCC... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15596889)

Taxing a free phone service. Whats next; hey, air is free; lets tax that.

Re:Trust the FCC... (1)

SubliminalVortex (942332) | about 8 years ago | (#15596954)

Actually, we need water more than air. Air is going to be sold at a premium above your H20 subscription.

But you elected these fascist trolls! (1)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | about 8 years ago | (#15596989)

Sorry to say it, but unless you voted for third party representation, this is...

ALL YOUR FAULT

For the love of God! (3, Insightful)

drpimp (900837) | about 8 years ago | (#15596694)

NO NEW TAXES PLEASE!

Re:For the love of God! (3, Insightful)

SubliminalVortex (942332) | about 8 years ago | (#15596764)

Read my lips: "NO NEW TAXES". We'll just raise the old ones. :)

Re:For the love of God! (2, Insightful)

svallarian (43156) | about 8 years ago | (#15597063)

Well the first bush lied when he said "No new taxes", so why would you expect is son to be any different?

I hate extraneous taxes... (1)

HoosierPeschke (887362) | about 8 years ago | (#15596697)

...but at least Vonage is still cheaper than Comcast or AT&T

Re:I hate extraneous taxes... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15596715)

This is B.S. small voip providers will go out of business.

FCC is working for big telecom.

Re:I hate extraneous taxes... (1)

Doppler00 (534739) | about 8 years ago | (#15596748)

Jim Cramer on Mad Money has been saying that Vonage is one of the worst IPO's ever. It's just too easy for the big companies to throw in VoIP as a free extra to the rest of their bundled services. When you can get VoIP free as part of your cable TV/internet package and have it on one bill, why sign up for another provider?

Re:I hate extraneous taxes... (1)

HoosierPeschke (887362) | about 8 years ago | (#15596797)

Because Comcast already costs me $70, Vonage adds $25 whereas Comcast will add $35 if I chose their service. $10 is a lot for a cheap bastard like me. From overall look (believe me, I'm a cheap bastard, I've ran the figures), I've got a better deal with Comcast analog cable, Internet and Vonage for phone.

As for the IPO, it isn't affecting me (yet...), I'm paying the same amount now that I was 2 years ago, which is more than I can say when I had SBC or Verizon when I was in Virginia.

Re:I hate extraneous taxes... (4, Informative)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | about 8 years ago | (#15596850)

OTOH Vonage has some drawbacks... Here in El Paso, TX, retailers like Best Buy are selling Vonage's VoIP appliances on endcap displays and offering great rebate deals - and it's not until you bring the thing home, unpack it and try to sign up that you find out Vonage can't give you a phone # in El Paso's 915 area code.

Re:I hate extraneous taxes... (1)

HoosierPeschke (887362) | about 8 years ago | (#15596888)

Other drawbacks is the 911 for some areas. Lucky me, I got my same # from SBC and I only had to sign up to list my address. I don't have the older systems that might cause issues. If I have to call 911, I'm good to go.

Another downfall that I keep hearing about is the loss of power. All of my essential equipment are on UPS for just such a scenario. In order to sell it to my wife, I had to make sure all bases were covered.

Re:I hate extraneous taxes... (1)

Fatal67 (244371) | about 8 years ago | (#15596950)

You appear to be on comcast. You should ask them if the rf plant is backed up also. You could have power in your house all day, but if your node is down.. not going to matter.

Re:I hate extraneous taxes... (1)

brunson (91995) | about 8 years ago | (#15596975)

Yes, Comcast's rf plant is backed up. My phone works even if power to my house is down, just like a telco. It's a requirement imposed by the FCC. For the extra $10, I think it's worth it to be able to call 911 even (especially) if the lights are out.

Re:I hate extraneous taxes... (2, Informative)

Fatal67 (244371) | about 8 years ago | (#15597008)

It's only a requirement if they offer the service as a 'primary line' service, which is why I said he should ask his provider. Even from the same provider the service will differ between areas.

That's OK... (1)

sheldon (2322) | about 8 years ago | (#15597247)

Vonage won't give you the rebate either.

It seems to me now that Vonage is going to have to start charging some taxes, that I'm really just better off moving to a USWest line. The $5 or so I save each month by using Vonage isn't worth the hassle.

Re:I hate extraneous taxes... (3, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | about 8 years ago | (#15596820)

You get your investment advice from a guy that screams a lot and has a soundboard full of afternoon radio-show sound effects?

Re:I hate extraneous taxes... (1)

HoosierPeschke (887362) | about 8 years ago | (#15596843)

What does the cost of a service have to do with investments of a company that provides the service?

Hypocrisy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15596758)

...but at least Vonage is still cheaper than Comcast or AT&T

Hmm....I notice you have a Comcast email address correct? Sounds like you should have be practicing what you preach first. OTOH, Vonage probably sucks, since you don't already use that service -- and you'd only be getting what you paid for...

Re:Hypocrisy! (1)

HoosierPeschke (887362) | about 8 years ago | (#15596828)

I should kick myself for replying to an AC but I've got nothing better to do at the moment. First, I do have Vonage, I use Comcast for the high speed Internet and cable. I have the phone hooked all through my house, no single base for me. It works great. I used to have issues when I was downloading isos but that was fixed with a little iptables and QoS magic. So I'm saving $10 and getting a better service than Comcast would provide for all three. Comcast by my house does not do bundle deals. I've called and asked.

Re:Hypocrisy! (1)

Larry Lightbulb (781175) | about 8 years ago | (#15597074)

That's a strange comment - or do you think Vonage is an email system?

so why didn't they tax the rest of the internet? (5, Interesting)

Doppler00 (534739) | about 8 years ago | (#15596705)

A VoIP call is just another internet connection between two individuals, sending data back and forth. What makes VoIP so special that it needs taxation? Are they going to tax internet video conferencing and Netmeeting next? Instant messaging? Just another example of old people in government not understanding the differences in new technology.

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.

Re:so why didn't they tax the rest of the internet (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 8 years ago | (#15596742)

A VoIP call is just another internet connection between two individuals, sending data back and forth. What makes VoIP so special that it needs taxation?

Taxes are like climbing mountains: They tax it because they can.

However, how are they going to keep track of what is data, what is voice, what is video, etc? The categories are disappearing as the hardware for media converges. It may require a lot of micromanagement and snooping to make such a distinction for tax categories.

Re:so why didn't they tax the rest of the internet (1)

spearway (169040) | about 8 years ago | (#15596876)

The art of Taxation consists of so plucking the goose as to obtain the greatest amount of feathers with the least amount of hissing.

Jean Baptiste Colbert (French Economist and Minister of Finance under King Louis XIV of France. 1619-1683)

Re:so why didn't they tax the rest of the internet (1)

jez9999 (618189) | about 8 years ago | (#15596892)

Much easier to extend this to be a blanket tax on all net communications.

Re:so why didn't they tax the rest of the internet (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:so why didn't they tax the rest of the internet (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 8 years ago | (#15596804)

What makes VoIP so special that it needs taxation?

YOu really don't know?

Basically, it reduces to this: the government needs money. You have some. In order to get it from you, they invented this thing they call "taxation".

Now, how does this apply to VOIP? Well, right now at least, VOIP looks like a "luxury tax" - a tax aimed at people who are better off than most (it looks that way because it's new, and not everyone has it). Luxury taxes are great, from the governnment point of vuew, because it's easy to convince the majority to like you if you tax the minority instead of them.

Plus there's the part where the government is losing revenue as people switch from taxed phone service to untaxed VOIP - so tax those rich bastards who are avoiding paying their fair share!!!

Never mind that the people in question aren't especially (or even necessarily) rich.

Thought experiment. (4, Insightful)

Wellington Grey (942717) | about 8 years ago | (#15596818)

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]

Re:Thought experiment. (1, Funny)

JebusIsLord (566856) | about 8 years ago | (#15596842)

I dunno, but it would sure take the sizzle out of those dirty late-night chats with the girlfriend.

Re:Thought experiment. (3, Funny)

Joebert (946227) | about 8 years ago | (#15596965)

*Steven Hawking voice*

Oh, yeah, that is it, baby, right, there.

Re:so why didn't they tax the rest of the internet (5, Informative)

affliction (242524) | about 8 years ago | (#15596825)

A VoIP call is just another internet connection between two individuals, sending data back and forth. What makes VoIP so special that it needs taxation? Are they going to tax internet video conferencing and Netmeeting next? Instant messaging? Just another example of old people in government not understanding the differences in new technology.

If you would have read TFA, you would have found out that they are only taxing calls made to the PSTN, not internet only calls. I don't have a problem with that. I do, however, have a problem with the rate discrepency between VoIP companies vs the Bells vs the cell companies. VoIP companies are paying double the amount the incumbents are paying based on an arbitrary percentage (a number not justified in any sort of way).

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 rural telephone co-ops in my area are heavily subsidized by Universal Service Funds. I am 99% certain that your DSL is funded by USF.

Re:so why didn't they tax the rest of the internet (1)

speculatrix (678524) | about 8 years ago | (#15597178)

they are only taxing calls made to the PSTN, not internet only calls

so, lets turn it round... doesn't this actually give people an incentive to STOP internet users in the USA who have VOIP from using the PSTN altogether, and encouraging their friends to sign up too?

dude1: hey, man, it used to be cheap to call you, but it's now costing more. Why don't you sign up for $VOIP_PROVIDER, then our calls to each other will be free, and we can stop subsidising the old telcos.
dude2: [fx: clickety-click] ok, whatever, I've signed up, my new voip reference is $DUDE2VOIP. yeah, I'm glad not to be putting money into the pockets of greedy $TELCO and suffering random wiretaps.
dude1: don't forget to enable encryption, because otherwise George Bush listens in to every telephone conversation being made.
fx: telcos moaning about how their voice revenue just shrank some more.

So, here's YOUR chance to rally your friends and hammer another nail into the olde worlde telephony systems!

Re:so why didn't they tax the rest of the internet (1)

CyberBill (526285) | about 8 years ago | (#15596945)

They are NOT taxing Peer-2-Peer VoIP calls, only if the call talks to the actual switched telephone service. I know everyone hates taxes, but really Vonage and the rest were using a loophole to not pay the taxes. All regular telephone calls have the tax applied as a percentage of all revenue generated by long-distance calls and a part of DSL service.

Re:so why didn't they tax the rest of the internet (1)

K9-Cop (973731) | about 8 years ago | (#15596985)

Doesn't this sound related to net neutrality?? We are paying for a specific kind of internet usage. The only difference is now the government is doing it, instead of the telcos.

Re:so why didn't they tax the rest of the internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15597173)

be careful how you argue or they may use this to start taxing other internet data transmissions.

this is govt and they never met a tax they didn't like - regardless of the drivel that talk about around election time.

DAMMIT! (4, Interesting)

Cleon (471197) | about 8 years ago | (#15596707)

Would it kill the FCC to allow us to communicate WITHOUT paying protection money?

This outfit is getting entirely too powerful. This crap has to stop.

Re:DAMMIT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15596916)

It's not the FCC, its their republicrat overlords in Congress that our fellow citizens insist on giving their lives away to. Vive la kleptocracy.

Civics? (5, Interesting)

pete-classic (75983) | about 8 years ago | (#15596714)

Does the FCC have the authority to levy taxes? Isn't the FCC an executive agency? Have we stopped even pretending that we have a constitutional government?

-Peter

Re:Civics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15596732)

$337,000,000,000 spent. Osama Bin Laden is still on the loose. I WANT A REFUND!

Nice sig. Maybe we can use the money generated from this tax to help pay your refund.

Re:Civics? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 8 years ago | (#15596753)

$337,000,000,000 spent. Osama Bin Laden is still on the loose. I WANT A REFUND!

Okay, just bring in your receipt. It is right next to the WMD's.
       

Re:Civics? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15596750)

you mean you think you have a constitution when the President of the United States called the Constitution "a goddamned piece of paper" ?
http://www.capitolhillblue.com/artman/publish/arti cle_7779.shtml [capitolhillblue.com]

Re:Civics? (4, Interesting)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 8 years ago | (#15596803)

Does the FCC have the authority to levy taxes? Isn't the FCC an executive agency? Have we stopped even pretending that we have a constitutional government?

It is not a tax - it is a fee - look at what your bill says. There is no real difference but the name does count becsue agencies can charge fees - and most do.

VOIP has been getting a free ride since they can connect with the landline but have avoided the fee - I'd like to see them junk the fee but that won't happen. It's a good thing that Repiblicans are for less government and working on important issues like banning gay marriage instead of worrying about what they've done to our economy. Where is Goldwater when the Republicans really need him.

From a personal perspective, VOIP is still cheaper since I have a phone in Eiurope and the US and all calls are local.

Re:Civics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15596833)

VOIP has been getting a free ride since they can connect with the landline but have avoided the fee

Can I not pay the fee if I use VoIP over wireless internet, to call other people using VoIP using wireless internet?

Re:Civics? (0, Troll)

Jacked (785403) | about 8 years ago | (#15596891)

I actually agreed with what you were saying until the criticism of "what they've done to our economy."

From all indicators that I have seen, that's the one thing they have done pretty well with. This administration came into office with a recession inherited from the previous administration, and turned it around into a strong economy.

Unemployment is low, inflation is low, new home construction is up, the markets are healthy. What's wrong with the economy?

I do take issue with their out-of-control spending, but the economy is fine.

Re:Civics? (1)

Ideasware (923312) | about 8 years ago | (#15596900)

>> It is not a tax - it is a fee.. Excuse me? So if we make up new words for things, we can ignore what the Constitution sayas about them? -- that's the rationale? I guess so, actually.. we have "police actions", not wars. We have quasi-federal agencies like the Federal Reserve -- who KNOWS what that is? We have family court and tax court that are really kangaroo courts, that violate due process and jury trial rights. We have the judicial system making new law all over the place. Back after the Revolution, the govt dared not pull this kind of crap, because they knew that citizens knew how to handle rogue governments. We've lost that. Jeezus crap. It pisses me off that I have no say in this. What do I do, unelect the FCC?

Re:Civics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15596924)

Republicans for smaller government? WTF?! If it was only so.

Go through a divorce with child custody, tax and property issues, small goverment my ass.

Re:Civics? (4, Informative)

maxpublic (450413) | about 8 years ago | (#15596955)

The poster is exactly right. The executive branch of every government (local, state, federal) levies taxes without consulting the legislature all the time, getting around little roadblocks like the Constitution by calling them 'fees'. Apparently if you call it a 'fee' rather than a tax then you can do whatever the fuck you want. This is especially true if you limit your fees to specific groups of the electorate who lack the power (or votes) to protest effectively against this sort of thing.

The sad thing is that most people are perfectly okay with this so long as they aren't the ones getting the shaft. And when their turn comes around their neighbors simply see it as payback for the fees THEY had to pay at some point for some government service that they used (or a commercial service the government decided to tax...er, levy 'fees' against). Basically it's a "I didn't hear you complaining when I had to pay fucking fee X for service Y, so don't expect me to speak up on your behalf now that you're the one being roughed by the government protection racket - asshole."

Good luck trying to change things. Governments are as addicted to their fees as smack whores are to heroin - and they've got the guns (metaphorically and literally) to make sure you can't do shit about it.

Max

not so much about money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15596716)

I think this is not so much about tax income as it's about tracking who's speaking to whom.

DSL double dipping? (4, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | about 8 years ago | (#15596717)

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 )

Re:DSL double dipping? (1)

Doppler00 (534739) | about 8 years ago | (#15596730)

No, there is a difference between DSL service and phone service. It used to be, or maybe you can still get DSL service without phone service. I did notice that my cable bill started having an extra tax on it some months ago, it's only a few cents, but I'm sure they'll slowly increase it as they see fit.

Double taxation (0, Redundant)

canuck57 (662392) | about 8 years ago | (#15596728)

Do they not aleady get a cut on the internet access (cable or DSL)? Is this not double taxation?

Re:Double taxation (1)

jasonditz (597385) | about 8 years ago | (#15596845)

they tax you, and they taxed the purchase of the computer, and the keyboard and mouse, and the headset.

I'd say we're well past double taxation into septuple or more taxation.

Re:Double taxation (1)

Flimzy (657419) | about 8 years ago | (#15596979)

Internet access is not taxable in the U.S. So to answer your question, "no".

What really irritates me about this tax (4, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 8 years ago | (#15596731)

is that I'm already paying communications taxes (of various sorts levied by various taxing bodies) on my Internet connection. Actually, in my case it's a significant chunk of my monthly bill. In any event, this is a discriminatory tax squarely aimed at smaller companies providing an Internet-based service that inconveniences the incumbent telephone companies. So far as I'm concerned it's double-taxation as well, if I happen to use a VoIP service. Way to go, FCC. Let's just open the door to taxing everything on the Internet ... if you can tax me because I happen to use packets formatted for this purpose, what stops the government from taxing packets formatted some other way. Ridiculous on the face of it.

This is a slippery slope. (5, Insightful)

sbaker (47485) | about 8 years ago | (#15596734)

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.

Re:This is a slippery slope. (1)

Puls4r (724907) | about 8 years ago | (#15596791)

Taxes aren't meant to be specific to the medium that is used - they are meant to tax function. Wireless carriers have to pay this tax, as do wired carriers. VOIP does use phone lines - obviously once your bytes hit their servers, they go over to analogue. I do wonder about double taxation. You pay a tax to your phone company for dsl (and many won't offer naked dsl) and alot of the time you're forced into at least a local plan, on which you'll also pay taxes, and now you're also paying the same tax on your voip - it isn't hard to see yourself getting taxed 2, 3, even 4 times for the same thing. I have to wonder at the justification though. I'm sure the voip providers pay fees already to the telcos - and people who use those lines for normal voice pay the fees as well. So how, exactly, are the voip's adding the true COST of the phone lines? They pay what's required to the big telco's already! Essentially it appears that this tax is a completely pointless money grab. I don't see a justification for it.

Re:This is a slippery slope. (2, Insightful)

sbaker (47485) | about 8 years ago | (#15596896)

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.

Re:This is a slippery slope. (1)

maxpublic (450413) | about 8 years ago | (#15596968)

Someone has to pay for whatever functions these taxes cover

And exactly what functions do they cover? The tax apparently wasn't necessary when the packets were formated for transmitting email, yet now that they transmit voice there's a sudden 'need' for new taxes and yet more government? Sounds to me like a win-win for the government (more free money for no additional service) and for the telcos competing against VOIP; yet another example of an oligarchy buying government power.

Max

Re:This is a slippery slope. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15597089)

RTFA.
Taxes only apply to calls which include the old skool phone system. They quite obviously aren't going to tax teamspeak. They couldn't.

Don't worry (1)

/dev/trash (182850) | about 8 years ago | (#15596904)

That will be taxed too.

WTF (1)

cloudkj (685320) | about 8 years ago | (#15596738)

Shouldn't we have gotten to vote on this? Or at least been given a little pamphlet of information about it before hand? WTF!!!

you can't enforce it. (4, Funny)

scenestar (828656) | about 8 years ago | (#15596741)

thanks alot FCC, I shall now make a fortune selling ssh stunnels to canada dedicated to "media traffic".

MOD PARENT UP - FUNNY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15596778)

Hilarious, underground railroad.

Re:you can't enforce it. (2, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 8 years ago | (#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.

Semantics (1)

alanjstr (131045) | about 8 years ago | (#15596745)

Its a fee, not a tax. Only Congress can levy taxes.

Re:Semantics (2, Insightful)

TomTraynor (82129) | about 8 years ago | (#15596773)

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!

Re:Semantics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15596819)

Maybe it's time we go dump a shipment of fiber in the sea ala the Boston Tea Party, I mean after all, wasn't this country founded on the notion of not letting some pricks with no direct involvement nor services rendered getting our money to cart off to fund their luxury?

Damn the FCC (1)

electronerdz (838825) | about 8 years ago | (#15596760)

Damn it, and I just got my VoicePulse account, which is already expensive with the two lines. Now it has to be more??

Questionable conversion rate (5, Informative)

boldtbanan (905468) | about 8 years ago | (#15596771)

FTA:
By one VoIP industry estimate, customers could owe as much as $2.12 extra on a $30 monthly bill because of the changes, said Jim Kohlenberger, executive director of the VON Coalition, which represents the Internet phone industry. Traditional wireline users would pay $1.38 on a comparable bill, while wireless users pay an average of $1.21, he said.

The above is due (FTA) to the fact that the FCC assumes ~65% of VOIP calls are long distance, while less than 30% of wireline and wireless calls are long distance. That makes it sound (to me) like some underhanded lobbying was involved.

In fairness, VOIP that does not connect to the POTS system (e.g. p2p calls) should be excluded as it does not use the same infrastructure and thus should not face the same tax burden. In fact, services such as Skype are excluded from the taxes for this exact reason, so some calculation should be made to determine the percentage of VOIP calls that never touch the POTS system. Other than that, I don't see any reason that VOIP services that use the same resources as the POTS carriers should be granted special exemption from the taxes collected for consuming the same services/infrastructure.

On a side note, my first impression from the summary was that the FCC was levying new taxes specifically against VOIP providers. I got the impression that the FCC was creating new taxes (No taxation without representation!) and that really pissed me off. Upon reading the actual article, that was definitely the implication, however the facts make it obvious that these are existing taxes and VOIP services are only being reclassified so that they fall under the same category as other voice carriers Anyone who thinks they don't -- specifically for services that access the POTS system, not p2p like skype and vonage to vonage calls -- is either ignorant or in denial. Of course, the conversion rate seems extremely off and weighted toward the destruction of VOIP and there doesn't seem to be an allowance for VOIP to VOIP calls which should bypass the regulation. I'm pissed about the extremely questionable fairness of this proclamation, but please present the facts without insinuating that things are happening (FCC creating new tax laws) which are clearly not.

TFA says it's only when you connect to PSTN (1)

Diphthong (461653) | about 8 years ago | (#15596796)

According to the article, the FCC is imposing a fee if and when the VOIP call interfaces with the PSTN network, ie. when one or more of the parties is using legacy telephone service. The fee does not apply to pure VOIP calls. Unfortunately, it isn't clear if a provider must pay the fee if it *ever* connects to PSTN, or only on a per-call basis. If it's the former, then this is really ridiculous. If it's the latter, then this may make some semblance of sense, annoying though it is. Anybody know which it is?

for the People, by the People.... (1)

dilvish_the_damned (167205) | about 8 years ago | (#15596799)

I bet its not hard to figure out which people this is for...

RTFA: the cure for knee-jerk (1)

NFNNMIDATA (449069) | about 8 years ago | (#15596808)

- They are not adding a new tax (which would be illegal), they are including a new business under an old tax.
- Only affects carriers who access the phone system, hence not the same as peer-to-peer calls or video game chat, etc, etc.

Re:RTFA: the cure for knee-jerk (0, Flamebait)

Fatal67 (244371) | about 8 years ago | (#15596938)

Now, don't go confusing the issue with facts. This is Slashdot.

If the people who actually build the infrastructure have to pay a tax on a service they offer, why shoudn't the other people who use that same infrastructure for the same service have to pay? It's about a level playing field.

Go Go Net Neutrality! Treat every service the same no matter who it is provided by is what Slashdot has been preaching, isn't it? Oh, or should that only apply when it does not cost the end users money?

Subject goes here... (0, Offtopic)

LouisZepher (643097) | about 8 years ago | (#15596826)

Fuck you, FCC [pythonline.com] .

Excellent Smithers (0, Redundant)

DittoBox (978894) | about 8 years ago | (#15596827)

"Eggg-sell-ent Smithers" Said Charles Montgomery "Dubyah" Burns as he clasped his hands together in a manner not unlike that of Chancellor Palpatine, "Something else

"Yes sir," Michael "Smithers" Powell replied, looking longingly at his boss.

FCC SHOULD BE SLASHDOTTED FOR THIS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15596834)

FCC overstepping its boundaries, class action suit (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15596835)

The FCC seems again try to overstep the legal boundaries of its authority. In fact, the legislative underpinnings of the FCC's foundation have become increasingly questionable and, contrary to widespread believe, its authority does NOT extent to internet based personal communication, namely VoIP. This means that should the FCC try to collect taxes from VoIP users you can simply refuse to pay and take the matter to court. There is already a class action lawsuit underway that addresses this issue and that will most likely put a final end to the FCC's attempts to overstep its legal boundaries.

Prepaid taxes? (1)

Psx29 (538840) | about 8 years ago | (#15596847)

Do these taxes affect people who pay-as-you-go with skype and other voip services that don't have a monthly subscription?

Yikes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15596857)

I only pay $3.99/month for VOIP through speakeasy.net (its an add-on to my OneLink DSL connection). These taxes could raise the VOIP portion of my bill by 150% or more.

I believer I speak for everyone when I say... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15596869)

FUUUUUUUCK!!!

How long before (1)

FudRucker (866063) | about 8 years ago | (#15596875)

How long before an encrypted and more discrete method avoids detection and gets under the radar thus avoiding the tax...

Re:How long before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15596991)

How long before an encrypted and more discrete method avoids detection and gets under the radar thus avoiding the tax...
I'm sure rot128 would be enough, knowing these taxmakers.

Internet Phone Taxes are no Different than... (1)

SubliminalVortex (942332) | about 8 years ago | (#15596881)

The same taxes, tarrifs, mule-carried bits that the phone company has been dredging off of people for years. Ever take a vacation? I bet if you left your house for a month, you would probably still spend no less than $39.95 US for a phone you have never used.

Now, let's just add to that convenience by adding DSL service, as well as caller ID, call blocking, call forwarding, etc. etc.

Now, let's also add "phone number preservation" along with every other little charge of which they can think. We choose to be slaves to a number (and it's a pain to learn a new one each time for convenience) but tend to stick with it out of comfort.

Now, add on surcharges for 911 and for "cross boundary lines" and city taxes and district taxes and county taxes and.... I wonder at times when I see those stakes in the ground noting "Zoning Hearing". For all I know, a state could have been split into about thirty zones and each carrier could be charged for a signal that crosses each.

Gotta love government and its way of squeezing money out of people in a very creative fashion. Of course, they're just following the trend nowaday and going after the larger herd of sheep; the younger cell-phoners. :)

VoIP need'nt only be interenet telephony (1)

indiancowboy (637150) | about 8 years ago | (#15596887)

The call may originate from a VoIP phone. But there is a difference between a call terminating to a VoIP phone or a PSTN line. If its the former then all the arguments posted about internet data being charged are valid. But if the termination is to a PSTN network it can be considered valid to tax it just like any other PSTN network taxes.

Well, you know what they say (1)

Alicat1194 (970019) | about 8 years ago | (#15596894)

Only two things are certain inlife, death and taxes. (and the death tax)

This is double taxation (1)

Dj-Zer0 (576280) | about 8 years ago | (#15596958)

If i am not mistaken Your cable or DSL bill already have a tax in it isnt it ? so trying to tax voip call which is carried through the already taxed connection is double taxation if you asked me.

As Reagan said... (2, Insightful)

Stormwatch (703920) | about 8 years ago | (#15596988)

"If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

Re:As Reagan said... (3, Informative)

eviltypeguy (521224) | about 8 years ago | (#15597198)

The original quote in context has a different meaning in my opinion:

Well, anyway, it's wonderful to be having this White House Conference on Small Business again after almost 6 years. Things certainly have changed in the meantime. Back then, government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it. [Laughter] Well, with your help, I think we've turned all that around. We cut taxes. We squashed inflation. We brought interest rates down, threw out needless regulations, setting the economy on a growth path that has created somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 million new jobs in under 4 years. Now, most people know that history. What isn't widely enough recognized, however, is the leading role of entrepreneurs and small businesses in our ongoing expansion.


Remarks to State Chairpersons of the National White House Conference on Small Business
August 15, 1986
http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/198 6/081586e.htm [utexas.edu]

No week pass without something to fuck U.S. People (1)

unity100 (970058) | about 8 years ago | (#15597060)

Nay not a single one. Each week there comes up shit to fuck up american citizens either openly or deceivingly, either by congress, or government bureucracy, or directly by president.

Eh, talk about reaping what you saw. Vote the republicans.

'Family values', 'american values', 'traditions' - any improvement on these so far ?

fool. (1)

jasonhamilton (673330) | about 8 years ago | (#15597106)

You are a bigger fool than you make yourself out to be if you really think the Democrats are any different than the Republicans.

It's the left and right hand on the same body.

Lunch Money (1)

Joebert (946227) | about 8 years ago | (#15597078)

By one VoIP industry estimate, customers could owe as much as $2.12 extra on a $30 monthly bill because of the changes, said Jim Kohlenberger, executive director of the VON Coalition, which represents the Internet phone industry. Traditional wireline users would pay $1.38 on a comparable bill, while wireless users pay an average of $1.21, he said.

$2.12 ?
$1.38 ?

Shit, I've had single long distance phone calls that cost more than that.
$2.12 That's like what, 2 Crispy Chicken Nuggets ?

I've got no problems with forking over a couple Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers to keep the Long Distance Monkeys off my back.

Re:Lunch Money (1)

sedman (210394) | about 8 years ago | (#15597122)

I think you are missing the point. New taxes are rarely that big. But once you allow the concept that it is OK to tax this as well, what makes you think the taxes will remain small?

Re:Lunch Money (1)

Joebert (946227) | about 8 years ago | (#15597180)

Because if taxes cause somthing to cost more than an alternative, people will use the alternative.

The biggest threat? (1)

koan (80826) | about 8 years ago | (#15597181)

IMO I feel the FCC, or rather the people in control of it currently are the single biggest threat to our democracy.
Media ownership and the parceling out of spectrums seems to be very biased in favor of corps.

Or maybe my tinfoil hat needs tuning.

Universal Service Fund needs to die. Fuck Wyoming (1)

zymano (581466) | about 8 years ago | (#15597228)

http://blogs.zdnet.com/ip-telephony/?p=1150 [zdnet.com]

Who are these asshole regulators that can put on a tax with no debate ?

They are more worried about F-ING Wyoming.

The USF tax needs to fricking DIE.
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