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UN To Debate Taxing Internet Data 284

Wowsers writes "In an effort to get ever more taxes for doing absolutely nothing, the United Nations will consider a European proposal to tax the internet based on data that gets sent. The proposal is designed to get money from large bandwidth users like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Netflix. Smaller companies that have high bandwidth requirements could be forced off the internet due to the taxes. 'The sender-pays framework would likely prompt U.S.-based Internet services to reject connections from users in developing countries, who would become unaffordably expensive to communicate with, predicts Robert Pepper, Cisco's vice president for global technology policy.'"
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UN To Debate Taxing Internet Data

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  • My God (Score:5, Insightful)

    by killmenow ( 184444 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @08:54AM (#40255717)
    Could politicians be more daft?
    • Re:My God (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08, 2012 @09:01AM (#40255793)

      They might consider tax on major car makers for using public roads

    • Re:My God (Score:5, Informative)

      by lordholm ( 649770 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @09:01AM (#40255795) Homepage

      The proposal is not written by european politicians, but rather by a an interest organization for european telecom operators.

    • Re:My God (Score:4, Informative)

      by baturcotte ( 717233 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @09:02AM (#40255805)
      Except that this isn't coming from the politicians...the proposal is the brainchild of European telecom companies, who are looking to make a cash grab because their uses are getting to high bandwidth US sites. Of course, I am amused how secret ITU treaty negotiations are bad when they negatively affect US companies, but how secret ACTA treaty negotiations are good when they protect US companies...
      • Re:My God (Score:5, Informative)

        by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @09:13AM (#40255905)

        Of course, I am amused how secret ITU treaty negotiations are bad when they negatively affect US companies, but how secret ACTA treaty negotiations are good when they protect US companies...

        I don't find that to be the prevailing opinion on Slashdot at all - I see very little defense of the ACTA treaty at all, let alone the secret negotiations.

      • by jythie ( 914043 )
        I wonder how many of the anti-net-neutrality camp are outraged by this, since they are functionally identical but framed with different narratives.
      • Re:My God (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Stormy Dragon ( 800799 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:31AM (#40256887) Homepage

        The tax is really about rent seeking by European telecom companies. They're having trouble competing with US companies like google, facebook, etc. on a level paying field, so they're hoping to make it too expensive for them to operate in other countries, allowing local clones to take over the market.

        • It seems only reasonable and fair that if they're going to tax sent Internet traffic, they should also tax sent tv and radio signals. Airwaves are an even more precious commodity than Internet bandwidth. It would at least be interesting to see how the media industry handles the conundrum of being on the same side as the big Internet companies that they seem to hate so much.

    • Why not tax the data sent across the LAN after all what is so special about internet data?
      What is so special about the LAN? What about data sent across internal busses? (after all USB could be compared to a network)
      So why not just tax CPU and memory access directly?
      You think I might have gone to far here?

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      "daft" - Makes me think of Looney Tunes
    • Re:My God (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DragonTHC ( 208439 ) <Dragon@@@gamerslastwill...com> on Friday June 08, 2012 @09:23AM (#40256007) Homepage Journal

      explain it this way, they're already taxed on that.

      It's through electricity. Data is just structured electricity. They pay taxes on that already.

      • Yes, because these are the kinds of people whom logic and reasoning are words in a dictionary, and are well-known to never pass on a bad idea.

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      Ftom their viewpoint it's perfectly logical.
      Many networks are state owned, and derive profits from long distance and international calls to balance their budgets and sudsidize local land lines.

      All of s sudden, everyone starts using Skype and other video services to talk to each other, which eats into their profit margins. Some Canadian companies trief turning standard smartphone applications like Skype into value-added extras by offdring "Skype minutes.".

      This is their way of trying again to restore profit m

    • READ TFA's SOURCES (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lexa1979 ( 2020026 )
      where is it written in the 2 leaked document sourcing TFA that they're planning to ask for taxes on data ?? couldn't find it...
    • See, this the logical extreme of taxation: entire groups of people whose very lives are dedicated to researching and implementing new forms of pain.

  • One would hope that all US political parties can come together against this idea....
    • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @09:20AM (#40255981) Journal

      I'm just amazed they found a situation where the conservative canard "If you want less of something, tax it" is actually accurate and relevant. The internet should be subsidized, not taxed. You'll get it all back from an improved economy.

      • This assumes an unlikely scenario in which subsidies don't come with government controls that more than undo every economic gain you hoped to make.

        • Indeed. The internet should be neither taxed nor subsidized.

          Of course, if they do try and implement this bullsh*t, I imagine the IT network guys will be back in demand. Private networks = no taxation (unless they're dumb enough to think they'll make it inside my house to install a meter on my LAN), and you can extend private networks fairly far...

          • by gtall ( 79522 )

            "The internet should be neither taxed nor subsidized." Just out of curiosity, how do you think the internet gets paid for? Does it just happen spontaneously?

      • Subsidizing something means you are taxing A and giving the money to B.

        Now it's easy to pick candidates for that, but in the long run governments generally do a bad job at picking targets to tax, and targets to subsidize.

        Part of the problem is that once a subsidy is put in place a constituency is created making it difficult to remove. In the US for example we subsidize tobacco growers. The very idea is of course abhorrent, but the political system is just not efficient.

    • Indeed. They'll come together under the common banner that the UN isn't doing enough. Some more mind trickery, in the form of the IRS's double-thinking on drug stamps (it's both taxed and illegal!).

  • Net Neutrality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bananatree3 ( 872975 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @08:56AM (#40255739)
    Taxes on services will just shut out the small guys. The internet isn't just for commerce (or just porn), it's for a ton of other things. The principle of Net Neutrality ensures equal bandwidth for all. This tax would just require profitability, when many sites barely run even.
    • agreed. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08, 2012 @09:03AM (#40255821)

      the majority of the real economy is small and medium business.

      taxes, regulations, and bureaucratic nonsense destroy small and medium business, while giving government and large corporations total advantage, in fact they are working together. in this way, the big dogs get to buy up, or remove all the small fish.

      and what do democrats and republicans do? they keep doing the same thing.

      regulate and tax the real economy to death.

      while ensuring their own survival and their corporate owners.

      and if you think voting Democrat is going to address this, you're a fucking moron.

      if you think MORE regulation, and more taxes, is going to fix this, you're a fucking moron.

    • Mod up!

    • Re:Net Neutrality (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @09:41AM (#40256201) Homepage

      Maybe that's the point. Shut out the FOSS community to do away with the competition. I'm sure many companies would be in favor of this. It's the whole pay more now in taxes, earn a lot more revenue later.

    • Net neutrality does not exist as far as I am aware in any country

      There is no recognised right to the Internet

      You can only Tax what makes money, FOSS would be largely untaxed ...

      • You can only Tax what makes money, FOSS would be largely untaxed ...

        There are places where barter is a means of avoiding taxes - I fix your plumbing, you fix my teeth, that sort of thing.

        And there are places that treat that sort of activity as tax evasion, and (if they find out it's happening) they tax you on what you should have earned.

        I expect that in the latter sorts of places, FOSS would be considered taxable based on what it's value would be if it were comparable commercial software.

        Never make the m

  • by howardd21 ( 1001567 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @08:56AM (#40255743) Homepage

    "In an effort to get ever more taxes for doing absolutely nothing"

    That is the most insightful summary...ever

    • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @09:23AM (#40256011) Journal
      Yeah, why don't they do something useful like eradicating smallpox?
    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @09:28AM (#40256053) Journal
      The UN do a lot, and some of it is actually useful. My beef with the UN, and with pretty much every government ever, is that they are always seeking to extend their span of control beyond what can be considered reasonable, in terms of power, influence, money and taxation. But in democratic nations, government is held in check at least to some degree by its constituents. The problem with the UN (and the EU for that matter) is that there is pretty much no control over what they do. UN-crats and Eurocrats are not held in check by the mandate of their voters, nor by voters in the countries they represent, but only by their colleagues. If a majority of them agrees to something that is opposed by all of the people they are supposed to represent, it will still pass. And what politician will say no to a chance to extend their influence, or an opportunity to take a big wet bite out of some fat cat overseas company's profits?

      I really fail to see why the UN or Europe (or anyone else) should be entitled to part of Google's profits. Because they use our infrastructure to make money? For "the privilege of serving non-U.S. users"? That privilege works both ways, and I as a European am (and should be) grateful for the privilege of having so many useful US-based services at my fingertips. I might also add that this infrastructure has already been paid for, by my monthly subscription fees and plenty of public money.

      Of course, saying that there is no good reason to tax Google is naïve... they will tax Google because they can, and come up with a good reason. Something along the lines of: "revenues from this internet tax will be applied towards building infrastructure in underdeveloped regions". Enter the Telcos, who are eager to get a nice cut of the job of building that infrastructure. Probably why their lobbyists came up with this proposal in the first place.
  • Yet another remedy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sarten-X ( 1102295 )

    The reason Google, Netflix, and the like don't already pay enormous amounts of taxes is because old tax laws have been riddled with loopholes. Legislators try to fix this by adding new taxes, because it's easier to make new laws than revise old ones.

  • Hoax? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by captainpanic ( 1173915 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @08:59AM (#40255769)

    The UN don't get their money from (directly) taxing companies or people. The member states pay.

    • I read the article and the linked documents and the whole article seems to be trolling-- I think the Republica. they interviewed whispered sweet black helicopter nothings into cnet's ears and they decided to run with it.

      Nowhere in the leaked documents does it say the UN will tax anything, or that member states are obliged to tax anything. All it basically says is that it wants to make sure the ITU regs affirm sovereign state's right to tax Internet traffic, and the rights of operators to negotiate their own

    • by kanto ( 1851816 )

      The UN don't get their money from (directly) taxing companies or people. The member states pay.

      It's the usual FUD; basically people with no actual power saying things like "tax the rich" and conservatives in the US taking out extra orders for batshit crazy.

  • by ChunderDownunder ( 709234 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @09:00AM (#40255783)

    Fund your failed economy some other way.

    Austerity and bailouts only prolong the suffering.

    • Indeed. The longer they prolong the medicine, the sicker the patient. The bailouts never should have happened. And austerity can't save your economy from a re-evaluation. Spending, of course, makes things worse.

  • . . . and anchor it in Boston Harbor. Your Internet taxes can be loaded the next morning, after your tea has been delivered.

    • Pity that a physical way of displaying our displeasure with the idea of internet taxation doesn't immediately come to mind.

      If we throw electrons overboard, I don't think they'd care. It just doesn't have the same oomph.

  • I often find internet data taxing
  • by Schezar ( 249629 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @09:08AM (#40255861) Homepage Journal

    While unlikely (hopefully) to pass, this sort if thing is exactly the reason the United States has been so reluctant to give up its nominal control of the Internet's architecture, nevermind why so many technologists are tacitly OK with the US's continued dominance.

    The nations of the world, given equal weight, err toward censorship, and many regimes with UN votes have deeply vested interests in clamping down on the extraordinary free-for-all of information exchange that the current Internet provides. I for one want the United Nations to have no role at this level, and both hope and expect the US to refuse ratification should it actually come to pass.

    • by Dan667 ( 564390 )
      The US is no longer the bastion of freedom it was.
      • by webheaded ( 997188 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @09:51AM (#40256337) Homepage
        And yet it's still the best option. No seriously though...I'm not saying this as "I AM AN AMURICAN" but moreso as...look at the shit the rest of your countries do with it. We have certainly fallen a long way, but the freedom of speech is still the most sacred right here and that affects things in a way that is very beneficial to the internet...even if we do fuck up sometimes. The thing is...our fuck ups seem small in comparison to the things that the nations of the UN would want to do. As the GP said...they tend to err toward censorship and the one thing I can still be proud of my country for is that they have an almost mindlessly addicted devotion to free speech.
      • by Megane ( 129182 )
        The UN is no longer the bastion of freedom it never was anyhow.
  • by rssc ( 898025 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @09:19AM (#40255979)
    I actually read the linked article and also skimmed through the leaked documents. I really can't find the things that the article is claiming are in there. From what I can make out, the leaked documents talk about taxes when billing telecommunication across borders (e.g., to prevent taxing services twice), like mobile phone roaming. How the article claims that this is about taxing large companies like Google and stuff is really beyond me. Can anybody point me to the part where it says that?

    The whole article just seems inflammatory and some kind of anti-UN, anti-European reflex. I suppose mission accomplished, the knee-jerk reactions are already pouring in...
    • by skine ( 1524819 )

      I think this post from above is pretty explanatory in why someone would write an inflammatory article involving the UN and the internet:

      While unlikely (hopefully) to pass, this sort if thing is exactly the reason the United States has been so reluctant to give up its nominal control of the Internet's architecture, [...]

  • upside (Score:2, Troll)

    If the tax were at a very low rate (say a 1/10 penny per megabyte) it wouldn't affect most users much. Suppose though that you taxed email at 1 cent per addressee? That wouldn't affect normal users much but would cost junk emailers enough that many untargeted junk emails would be stopped. But administering a monitoring and collection system for internet usage taxes would be expensive. I don't think I wanted the government in the middle of every transaction.
    • I'd never pay a U.N. based tax, and I'd make damn sure no US politicians who were stupid enough to suggest that the US become a signatory of this proposed amendment ever gets reelected. I'm pretty sure most other US citizens feel the same way. We're quite sensitive about the whole taxation without representation thing.
    • That is a hugely expensive tax. Currently the cost to transmit a gigabyte is around 10 cents. There are 1,024 megs in a gig. So a 1/10 cent tax per meg would mean $1.02 in taxes per gig, or ten times the cost of service. Also, I understand that it used to be much more expensive to communicate (stamp and mail), and a 1 cent per email tax would be cheap for personal uses. But legitimate businesses who send hundreds of millions of requested emails (advertising to shopping club members, notification of bills re
    • Moron! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward


      An upside? You submit yourself to going along with this like cattle when there is no reason. All that it takes is for you to disagree. That is all. But you sit here, nod your head, and say, "Well, maybe it's not so bad," as you have your anus pummeled by politicians in every facet of life. YOU are the reason that stuff like this is ever passed.
      Think twice...if you're even capable of that.

    • And if my friend and I both have email servers set up at home and we want to send each other a message, how much does it cost and who tracks that? What if we use a different port? What if we encrypt the data and do it over port 443. Is it delivery to port 25 that's taxed? If email is taxed, then all my friends drop email and move to Facebook messaging (is that taxed?). I'd probably set up a jabber server for good friends and family.

  • This isn't the first time that a U.N. agency will consider the idea of Internet taxes. In 1999, a report from the United Nations Development Program proposed Internet e-mail taxes to help developing nations, suggesting that an appropriate amount would be the equivalent of one penny on every 100 e-mails that an individual might send. But the agency backed away from the idea a few days later.

    They've tried once and failed, lets hope they fail again.

    • They also propose being funded through taxes on currency exchange and international airfare, neither of which has come to pass. But they keep trying, because they know they only have to succeed once, whereas those who don't want to live under a world government with teeth have to succeed every time.

  • If you tax someone, it should be the consumers of data. Google sends no data unless the consumer requests it. Of course, the consumers already pay for their bandwidth. (which is why I think charging for tethering is a complete ripoff. That is double charging for the bandwidth already paid for)

  • The UN is deeply flawed.

    Even deeply flawed, the world is a better place for it.

    If you don't understand that, you don't understand enough of international affairs to comment intelligently on the subject matter.


  • Is it April Fool's already?

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @09:37AM (#40256147) Journal
    While I understand that telcos are money-grubbing little fuckers who would sell their own family for a plug nickel, I am honestly baffled at how frequently this 'zOMG high-bandwidth sites are terrifying parasites who are getting a free ride!!!' comes up, and even seems to be treated as reasonable.

    It's not hard: For Company A and Customer B to exchange data across the magic intertubes, Company A is paying(probably rather a lot, albeit at favorable per-megabyte rates) for upstream bandwidth and Customer B is paying (probably rather less; but at usurious per-megabyte rates) for downstream bandwidth. There isn't any magic free-riding going on. In fact, by offering attractive and data-heavy services, Company A is doing ISPs a favor; by making their otherwise rather unexciting product highly desirable to Customer B.

    I can understand that there might be occasional spats about peering between the big backbone guys; but the claim that internet companies are somehow 'free-riding' on the poor, downtrodden ISPs is laughably absurd. They certainly don't get their upstream pipes for free, and their customers definitely pay for the connection that they use to download. I have to wonder what color the sky is in the world of ISPs who have the temerity to attack their greatest benefactors, the people who provide stuff that the public wants so much that they'll buy bandwidth to get it....
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:00AM (#40256471) Homepage

    IP and in Intellectual Property.

    If the REcord companies claim that song is worth trillions in a law suit, ASK them where the Back taxes are on those Trillions. Software,Music,Movies,Books. Tax the stated "value" of them.

    This fixes two things. 1 - Added revenue for the EU. 2 - stops ridiculousness in claims for Copyright Infringement. The company cant dare to claim $6500.00 per share of a song if they will be taxed at the new rate for it. Suddenly it fixes a legal and a financial problem overnight. They can stop paying Taxes on a piece of I.P. as soon as they release it as public domain. So old abandonware games, Old music music and old movies, will get released and not horded for no reason.

  • The UN is looking for a source of funding other than the US Government, because if the US Government pulled out of the UN it would go bankrupt and implode financially.
  • "In an effort to get ever more taxes for doing absolutely nothing, the United Nations will"

    Could you possibly be more biased.

  • The United Nations is not a government and does not have the ability to levy taxes even if they wanted to. The debate about taxes happened in a U.N. forum, but the U.N. itself would have no role in collecting taxes. It would be the U.S. and European countries that would collect and keep the money.
  • on business that send ads through the internet?

  • If an article begins: "In an effort to get ever more taxes for doing absolutely nothing..." don't bother reading any further. It's just a screed.

It seems intuitively obvious to me, which means that it might be wrong. -- Chris Torek