DBS Operators Fight State Taxes

DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp. are jointly battling tax proposals that would levy taxes on their customers in Maine and Nevada.

A 5% consumer tax on direct-broadcast satellite service was added to Maine’s state budget March 20 in a late-night amendment. The state’s 120,000 DBS customers would be affected.

The two operators have sent a letter opposing the levy to Gov. John Baldacci, said DirecTV spokesman Bob Marsocci. Maine’s legislature is expected to act on a budget by April 1.

The anti-tax fight in Nevada is a little tougher, because the bill would create a trust fund from which police and fire agencies would apply for grants to buy equipment for intra-agency emergency communications.

Because of its purpose, the Nevada State Cable Telecommunications Association supports the tax, said executive director, Bob Gastonguay. He noted that emergency workers in only two Nevada counties currently have the intra-agency technologies.

Though the bill’s goal is laudable, the DBS operators don’t want their customers to pay a tax they consider unfair, Marsocci said. Nevada has about 150,000 DBS customers, according to Marsocci.

The Nevada bill would apply a 5% tax on all subscription-television users.