California utilities panel cancels plan to tax text messages

Posted at 2:08 PM, Dec 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-16 17:08:18-05

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is not moving forward with its plan to tax text messages.

The state proposed the tax onto wireless customers’ bills to increase funding for Public Purpose Programs, which allow low-income families and individuals to access a phone.

Proposed California texting tax would benefit low-income residents

Regulators were supposed to vote on the measure Jan. 10, 2019, but the future of the tax was doubted after a Federal Communications Commission ruling on Dec. 12.

On Wednesday the FCC issued a declaratory ruling that text messages are an “informative service” not a “telecommunication service” under the Federal Telecommunications Act.

This means California cannot charge for the service.

Prior to the FCC ruling, text messages were not a classified service under any federal law. According to the CPUC, telecommunication services could get taxed to support several CPUC public programs, which is why they submitted the proposal.

The CPUC said on Friday that Carla J. Peterman withdrew the proposal after the FCC ruling.