Should the Internet Be Taxed?

The upside of establishing a new tax on data mining isn't immediately apparent, but it's there.


A lot of things on the Internet are free, and it's awesome. Log in to Facebook, stalk some friends, post some inane updates, and you don't have to pay a penny. Head over to Gmail, send some messages, make some domestic phone calls, organize your inbox, and it's all on the house. Open up Twitter, do whatever people do on Twitter, and your grand total at the checkout is $0--all while the US Postal Service withers up.

Right now, we pay for many of our Internet services with our eyeballs. Facebook, Google and Twitter are happy to provide us with some simple services, because the data we surrender helps them talk advertisers into forking over billions of dollars are year to support their services. So as advertisers brainwash us (, Internet companies gobble up their money, and governments—well, governments get left out in the rain, penniless and pained.

So what would happen if we made some adjustments to the little triangle of trade on the Internet? What if we allowed governments to install a toll booth or two between the vertices and rake in a little bit of tax revenue from this increasingly ubiquitous service? To extend the metaphor a bit, taxing the Internet infrastructure would not be dissimilar from taxing physical infrastructure, i.e. roads and bridges. It costs money to maintain both infrastructures, and if we want to improve them, then that will cost money, too. And we do want to improve the infrastructure. Just this weekhe Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski called for all 50 states to have at least one community with gigabit speed broadband services by 2015. That sounds stupendous. It also sounds expensive.

Read the rest over at the new Motherboard.VICE.com.