Senate Republicans Propose Making Big Tech Pay For Internet Infrastructure

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Ailan Evans Deputy Editor
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Three Senate Republicans introduced a bill Wednesday requiring the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider collecting revenue from major tech companies to fund broadband internet.

The Funding Affordable Internet with Reliable Contributions Act, introduced by Sens. Roger Wicker, Todd Young, and Shelley Moore Capito, directs the FCC to consider collecting Universal Service Fund (USF) contributions from Big Tech companies “such as YouTube, Netflix, and Google,” the lawmakers announced in a statement Wednesday. USF is a subsidy fund of the FCC that dispenses around $10 billion a year for broadband internet infrastructure in rural areas, according to the FCC website. (RELATED: FCC Chair Stays Mum On Efforts To Deplatform Conservative Networks; Accused Trump Of ‘An Assault On Free Expression’)

“As online platforms continue to dominate the internet landscape, we should consider the feasibility of Big Tech contributing to the USF to ensure rural areas are not left behind as we work to close the digital divide,” Wicker said in the statement.

The bill would require the FCC to conduct a study and seek public comment on the feasibility of collecting USF contributions from Big Tech, as well as the impact the new legislation would have on rural and tribal communities. The bill also asks the FCC to consider the “fairness” of collecting revenue from Big Tech compared to individual taxpayers.

“For too long, Big Tech has been able to profit off of the critical infrastructure used for common day-to-day activities while not helping at a sufficient level to improve those capabilities with broadband investment in states like West Virginia,” Capito said in the statement. (RELATED: FCC Commissioner Slams Top Baltimore Prosecutor’s ‘Chilling’ Request For Investigation Into Fox-Affiliate Over Bias, Tucker Carlson Show)

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr published a May op-ed in Newsweek supporting collecting revenue from Big Tech to fund broadband, writing “we should start requiring Big Tech to pay its fair share.” Carr wrote that he supported Congress enacting legislation forcing Big Tech to contribute to the USF.

The USF is currently funded through a tax on telephone service, according to Carr, but the revenue base is decreasing due to people switching over to the internet for services and communications.

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