Taxing the Internet?

Ethan Corban ’16

Since its release to the public well over a decade ago, the Internet has changed the face of global communication and improved the lives of countless millions. It allows for rapid interaction across continents and acts as a location for organizing and executing events from small get-togethers to mass protests. The enormous impact of the Internet has been felt throughout the world, including the country of Hungary. However, leadership in Hungary is currently considering passing legislation that will lead to an almost unheard of phenomenon: a tax on the internet.

The vast crowds of over 10,000 protesters who started swarming the streets of Budapest on Sunday are standing up to fight the highly controversial proposal. If the act is passed, $0.61 in American currency will be taxed per gigabyte transferred. Despite the claims of Hungarian Economy Minister Mihaly Varga that the tax is required to lower the country’s debt, many are enraged by the act. A commonly repeated complaint is that the tax will hinder the efforts of government critics who primarily operate through social media.

The proposal to tax internet usage comes at a time in which governments around the world are hashing out how or if the internet should be regulated by the federal government. In the United States, there has been much debate about whether the FCC should intervene as large corporations such as Comcast and Verizon attempt to seize control of the entire market. Many claim that monopolization of the internet would be unjust and requires federal intervention to protect the rights of millions to access the web.

As the internet is a relatively modern invention, there is not significant historical basis upon which for governments to act. As a result, the United States and several over countries have been slow to decide on what their course of action should be in handling issues surrounding the internet.

The result of the issue in Hungary may give other countries a path to follow, for better or worse.