Oregon lawmakers consider taxing cellphone users to fund rural broadband services

(KATU Photo)

Oregon lawmakers are considering adding a surcharge on interstate cellphone calls to fund broadband internet services in rural areas.

The tax would generate $10 million and help connect nearly 400,000 people to the internet, according to state lawmakers.

"Internet is fundamental to business. It’s the way we communicate with each other; it’s the way we get information," said state Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Jackson County.

Hospitals and 26 schools don't have access to internet or have poor internet quality, according to Marsh.

"If those of us who live in urban areas race to the next technology without bringing our neighbors in rural Oregon along with some technological solutions out there, we're really going to exacerbate a real urban divide," she said.

There have been two hearings for HB2184 in Salem.

The funds would generate loans and grants that could help create broadband services. Marsh said private internet providers don't see an economic benefit to connecting rural communities with internet.

The tax would not be collected from calls made to other states or from phones with area codes outside of Oregon. Text messages and data usage would not be taxed.

Marsh estimates the average person would pay $4 to $8 a year.

Cellphone users told KATU News they spend about $100 a month on their cellphone bills.

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