Google, Facebook and Netflix soon to be taxed to finance very high speed broadband for all?

In the United States too, telecom operators would like the web giants to put their hands in their pockets to finance their networks. While the EU is exploring projects in this direction and France has declared itself in favor of a tax, the American telecoms lobby has a very active relay at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the local telecoms regulator. . FCC member Brendan Carr used an Aug. 15 report to Congress on the future of universal telecommunications service subsidies to reiterate his desire for Big Tech to contribute to the cost of telecom infrastructure. .

the universal service fund at an impasse

Created in 1997, the Universal Service Fund spends $9 billion a year to bridge the digital divide in the United States, which covers both deployments in rural areas and connection assistance for low-income households. modest and public services. According to the FCC, the funding mechanism for this fund, based on a tax levied on landline telephone bills, entered into “a death spiral” due to the continued decline in revenues from telephony.

Broadening the tax base to broadband Internet service providers would not be a good solution according to the FCC, because of the risk that it will affect ISP bills, which would run counter to the very objectives of the fund.

tax online advertising and streaming

As a result, the FCC recommends extending the fund’s financing to large technology companies, through a contribution “fair and equitable, without risk of harm to consumers”. She proposes to do this to tax the advertising revenues of companies like Google and Facebook, as well as streaming service providers, including “five biggest account for 75% of traffic in rural areas”.

“There is growing recognition globally – in Europe, Asia and South America – that Big Tech should contribute its fair share to network infrastructures and efforts to bridge the digital divide, generate unprecedented revenue”, comments Brendan Carr. The latter had already expressed this view in June 2021, reflecting lobbying from AT&T and Verizon, but now it has become the position of the FCC as a whole, which marks a progression of these arguments in the public debate.

The FCC report was commissioned by the US government as part of the Infrastructure Act, a federal law enacted in 2021, which includes a $65 billion super-broadband-for-all plan to expand fixed networks.

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