Republicans make moves on taxing Big Tech for broadband

A trio of Senate Republicans introduced legislation Wednesday that would lay the groundwork to force Big Tech companies to pay fees to support broadband subsidy programs.

Why it matters: Republicans are increasingly looking to Big Tech to support a struggling subsidy fund that pays for internet access and deployment programs.

Driving the news: The bill, from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.), would direct the Federal Communications Commission to study the feasibility of collecting fees from companies like Google and Netflix to shore up the agency’s Universal Service Fund.

  • The Funding Affordable Internet with Reliable (FAIR) Contributions Act would require the FCC to consider possible sources of Big Tech revenue, like digital advertising and user fees.
  • The agency would also have to assess whether or not it could collect fees on companies that have historically not been regulated by the FCC.

Catch up quick: Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr in May outlined a plan to force Big Tech companies to pay into the subsidy fund.

  • Currently, a fee on phone bills goes into the Universal Service Fund, but that revenue base has been decreasing, prompting calls for reforming how contributions are made.

What they’re saying: “As online platforms continue to dominate the internet landscape, we should consider the feasibility of Big Tech contributing to the USF to ensure rural areas are not left behind as we work to close the digital divide,” Wicker said in a statement.

The other side: K. Dane Snowden, president of the Internet Association, said in a statement:”We recognize there are USF funding challenges, however we do not believe that new fees on internet companies are the solution.”

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