Policymakers may also mistakenly lump wireless services in with pure entertainment, like television. But wireless technologies are fundamentally about access to information, and much of that information can be critical for climbing up the economic ladder. People use the internet to find job listing and apply for new positions. When public school fail children (which is too often the case), parents can supplement with inexpensive online learning materials. Parents also access online learning to get their own degrees or complete job training programs, which can be critical for finding jobs in the modern economy.
Having the ability to access that information from home—rather than having to go to a library, school or office place—is particularly important for women, who are more likely to be caring for children or other family members for much of the day. Working mothers who struggle with competing obligations see these technologies as fundamental, so they can pick up Susie and Johnny at school at 3:00 pm and still participate in the 4 pm conference call and then complete paperwork after the kids are asleep.
Far from progressive, taxes on wireless technology particularly affect those with tight budgets and who can't afford to pay the extra dollars a month. High taxes contribute to the “digital divide,” which keeps poorer families from having access to the same information that helps educate the middle and upper class.
Some policymakers are recognizing that unlike other highly taxed items wireless technologies' externalities are positive, leading to a more educated, economically-productive citizenry. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) recently introduced The Wireless Tax Fairness Act of 2011, which would prevent states from imposing additional taxes on wireless services for the next five years.
That's a fine start, but locking in existing high taxes shouldn't be the goal. There's an old adage that if you want less of something, then tax it. Americans want more, not less, of these life-enhancing technological breakthroughs. Government officials from Washington DC to the state capitols to the mayors' offices throughout the country should roll back punitive taxes on these technologies so that more Americans can enjoy these technologies and the economic benefits that they bring.
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