Taxing Telecom

Last week, Finland made broadband access a universal right.  Now, Mexico has announced their intention to levy a tax on all telecom services, including internet.  If that seems regressive to you, that's because it is.

Broadly speaking, it makes good policy sense to tax items with negative externalities (like tobacco, alcohol, or, say, carbon emissions) and to leave untaxed things that help create a better society (like food, or, ahem, internet connectivity).  I can sympathize with the Mexican government's desire to raise revenue from a quickly growing sector of their economy, but there's got to be a better way than actively discouraging broadband uptake.

Fortunately, for Mexico's technological elites, Twitter has given them a forum to make a fuss.  The hashtag #InternetNecesario (which means, basically, internet is a necessity) has been the convening point for people wishing to speak out against the policy.  The hashtag briefly made the top ten "trending topics" list this morning, right up there with Rihanna and the Baloon Boy.

With the stellar Alliance of Youth Movements summit taking place in Mexico City last week, featuring an awful lot of interesting discussion about broadband, Twitter, and all these other technologies, I have to think somebody's paying attention in the government. Let's hope this bad idea goes away.