The long-awaited Internet tax could arrive right after the November elections, a member of the Federal Communications Commission told the Heritage Foundation on Friday, thanks to the commission's "net neutrality" regulations passed last year.
"Thus far, all we've been told is that no decision on broadband taxes will be made until after the D.C. Circuit decides whether the FCC's regulations are legal," FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said. "One might reasonably suspect that this decision is conveniently being put off until after the November elections."
Friday was the one-year anniversary of the "Open Internet Order" passed by the FCC, which reclassified broadband providers as "telecommunications carriers." That classification allows the FCC to impose what is known as a Universal Service Fee on Internet service, which is generally in the range of 20 percent of a consumer's total bill.
The fund has grown by 45 percent since President Obama took office, to a total of $12.1 billion last year. However, the commission's "wish list" for spending is still growing, and it could soon include subsidies for the very Internet service that the fee will make more expensive. "As I said one year ago, read my lips: The money to fund this spending spree will come from a broadband tax. The only question is when," Pai said.
The FCC instructed its "fee commission" to make a recommendation on whether to tax Internet service by April 2015, a deadline that has not been met. "One long year later, we still have no clarity," Pai lamented.
Pai closed with a plea for voters to take action before it was too late. "They deserve to know how much more they are going to have to pay to go online," he added. "The FCC should not impose a broadband tax in the stealthy darkness of the next Washington winter."