Wireless an Essential Service for Minorities; Increased Taxation Could Hinder Use

Wireless an Essential Service for Minorities; Increased Taxation Could Hinder Use


MyWireless.org released the results of its Annual National Consumer Survey on wireless use and sentiment, and, yet again, the results demonstrate that African Americans and Hispanics find their wireless service incredibly valuable.  According to the survey, which was developed by polling 1,000 wireless consumers across the country, 88 percent of African Americans and 98 percent of Hispanic Americans see wireless as an essential service, as compared to 83 percent of the general public who hold their wireless service in such high esteem.  While 67 percent of those surveyed said they’d be at a disadvantage without their wireless service, Hispanic Americans and wireless consumers under the age of 40 “feel they would be negatively impacted if they didn’t have their wireless device and service.”

Just as wireless is viewed as a critical service, the survey highlighted the impact of wireless pricing on consumer use. 71 percent of those surveyed said they would reduce their wireless service plans to help make up for increased costs if taxes were raised on their service.  What’s more, 95 percent of respondents believe that their monthly wireless tax rate should be lower than the taxes they pay on general goods and services, which is about 7 percent.

Similarly, when asked about taxation of the Internet – related to this study because so many people rely on their wireless devices to get online, especially African Americans and Hispanics – 77 percent of those surveyed oppose adding Internet access taxes to their monthly wireless bill, and 84 percent favor a five year freeze on all wireless taxes and fees.

The findings of this survey could not have been more timely, as it was released one week after the U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted (30-4) in favor of the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, a bill that will forever extend the moratorium prohibiting taxation of the Internet, which is set to expire on November 1, 2014. The bill is now awaiting a full vote by the House. A similar measure, the Internet Tax Freedom for Forever Act, must also pass the Senate in order for a permanent moratorium on Internet taxation to become law.

With Congress set to depart for summer recess on July 31, the pressure is on for Congress to act as soon as possible prior to recess and the midterm election frenzy.

Given the essential nature of wireless service, and its importance in communities of color, policymakers should heed the concerns of some of the primary wireless consumers when it comes to passing legislation that could have such a dramatic effect on people’s lives and livelihoods.