Last Sunday in Budapest, Hungarians gathered to protest their Government’s proposal to tax their Internet usage to the tune of 150 forints (around 62 cents) per gigabyte of data traffic. This tax, if implemented, has the potential not only to hurt Hungarians’ pocketbooks but also their free speech and somewhat fragile democracy.
According to a group known as “100,000 Against the Internet Tax” (they organized Sunday’s peaceful rally), the tax “would impede equal access to the Internet, deepening the digital divide between Hungary’s lower economic groups, and limiting Internet access for cash-poor schools and universities.” The group committed to renew its protest this week should the Hungarian government proceed with the legislation.
The Internet usage tax is also at odds with the European Union’s stated goal to promote a digital single market throughout that trading bloc, in particular its key policy plank to increase Internet penetration rates throughout its 28 member states. A tax on Internet usage can only serve to decrease Internet usage in at least one of those member states, Hungary. So it’s unsurprising then that the outgoing EU Digital Commissioner – Neelie Kroes – has already taken to Twitter to protest the tax herself, describing it as “a shame for users and a shame on the Hungarian government.”
At the Internet Association, we’re dedicated to advancing public policy solutions to strengthen and protect Internet freedom, foster innovation and economic growth, and empower users. As part of this, we work to promote policies that enhance Internet access throughout the world. We wish the peaceful protesters in Hungary success in achieving this goal and lend them support from afar.