The California Public Utilities Commission has proposed a surcharge on text messaging to help cover its growing budget for programs that help make phone service accessible to the poor.
A federal regulatory ruling Wednesday aimed at protecting consumers from text-messaging spam may also help California mobile phone users avoid a proposed state texting tax.
The California Public Utilities Commission has proposed a surcharge on text messaging to help cover its growing budget for programs that help make phone service accessible to the poor, with a vote scheduled for Jan. 10. But the proposal — first reported Tuesday by the (San Jose) Mercury News — has drawn fast and fierce criticism from opponents.
The wireless industry, business groups and other critics argued California can’t tax text messages unless federal regulators allow state regulators to treat text messaging as a telecommunications service.
On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission in a 3-1 decision declared wireless Short Message Service (SMS) and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) are “information services” similar to email under the Communications Act — and not a telecommunications service.
The FCC’s decision also denied requests from mass-texting companies that have complained wireless providers are thwarting their ability to reach consumers via texts. Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr were in favor, with Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel opposed.

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