As Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler has pushed forward with the reclassification of broadband Internet service from a Title I information service to a utility-like Title II telecommunications service as part of an effort to implement net neutrality rules, his office has repeatedly insisted that the move won’t result in new taxes on Internet service.
You can see this, for example, in an official agency document released yesterday that claims to “separate fact from fiction” regarding the agency’s regulatory overhaul. It’s a “myth,” the sheet says, that the new rules will increase broadband bills or raise taxes.
This is the official position of the FCC under Chairman Wheeler. But it’s not the position of all of the agency’s five commissioners. In a detailed and compelling 62-page dissent, Commissioner Ajit Pai, one of the two Republican appointees who voted against the Title II switchover, argues that the move clearly paves the way for new taxes and fees on Internet service.
Most phone bills, Pai explains, contain an additional line for what’s known as a “universal service fee”—essentially a tax added to your phone bill by the FCC which raises about $9 billion in revenue each year. Because this is a feature of Title II service, it’s never been applied to Internet service before.