Tea Party Joins in Opposing E-911 Tax on Lifeliners

A proposed e-911 tax on wireless users eligible for the FCC's low-income lifeline subsidy is drawing fire from a coalition that includes the National Consumers League, the Grange and the Alabama Tea Party.

In a letter to Alabama governor Robert Bentley, they ask him to repeal the decision by Alabama's 911 Board to apply the E-911 tax to participants in the FCC's wireless Lifeline program. They also complain that the E-911 fee is being increased from $1.60 to $1.75 per month.

The board voted to increase the fee and pointed out that "a monthly statewide 911 service charge is imposed and collected on each active voice communications service connection in Alabama that is technically capable of accessing a 911 system."

The FCC-overseen Universal Service Fund extends one subsidy per qualified low-income household for either wired or wireless phone service — though it is migrating that subsidy to broadband.

"We believe that Lifeline customers who receive support, landline or wireless at no cost, should not be required to pay E-911 fees," the groups said.

They point out that on Aug. 1, the new E-911 tax will kick in, representing a 19% tax on the $9,25 a month in Lifeline subsidy per household.

"While we fully support the critical work of Alabama’s emergency first responders, funding for such services should not come on the backs of its neediest residents," they said.

Also signing on to the letter were the Alliance for Generational Equity, Consumer Action, Community Action Association of Alabama and the Community Action Partnership.

The FCC had no comment on taxing Lifeline recipients for E-911.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.