|911 TAX: As the Illinois General Assembly approaches the
end of its legislative session on May 31, Emanuel reportedly sent
lobbyists to the state capital to ask to be able to raise a monthly
tax on city cell phone users from $2.50 to almost $4 per month.
As the Illinois General Assembly approaches the end of its legislative
session May 31, Emanuel reportedly sent lobbyists to the state capital to push
to move that would raise a monthly tax on city cell phone users from $2.50 to
The tax in question, the 911 fee, is set to expire July 1. The city took a major
revenue hit after a so-called $2 per month employer “head tax” on businesses
with more than 50 employees expired Dec. 31.
While 911 fees are supposed to go to pay for the city’s 911 dispatch, the money
can end up paying for other things on the city’s wish list.
Rob Shrum, director of political advocacy for MyWireless.org, a wireless
industry advocacy group, blasted the city’s past use of the fund.
Shrum notes on his organization’s blog the city’s the last 911 fee hike in 2008
doubled its cell phone users’ $1.25 911 fee “as a way to fund security
improvements to help the city secure an Olympic bid.”
“Six years later, the Olympic bid was unsuccessful, but the city’s wireless
consumers continue to pay $2.50 a month, the second highest city 911 fee in the
country,” said Shrum.
“This is on top of the combined 14 percent state and city excise tax on wireless
service. These taxes and fees make Chicago one of the ‘top-10′ cities for high
wireless taxes and fees on consumers,” said Shrum.
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The city’s 911 fee was first placed
on city residents in 1990 by then-Mayor Richard Daley.
A recent Neilsen survey found, as of November 2013, Chicago’s 71
percent smartphone penetration rate placed it in the top-10 markets
in the nation for the phones.
The tax hike would undoubtedly hit
the city’s minorities, young people and low-income residents who
rely on their mobile devices to access the Internet.
A 2011 survey measuring broadband adoption in Chicago found 50
percent of the city’s demographic who only access the Internet on
their mobile device are between the ages of 18 and 29; 34 percent
make less than $20,000 a year and 59 percent are women.
Josh Peterson is a DC-based tech reporter for the Franklin Center's
Watchdog.org news site. Peterson previously spent two years at The
Daily Caller covering tech and telecom regulatory policy as the
publication's Tech Editor. During that time, he focused on
cybersecurity, privacy, civil liberties, and intellectual property
issues, and in addition to covering political protest movements.
Prior to joining The Daily Caller in October 2011, Peterson spent
time in DC researching and reporting on technology issues in
internship roles with Hillsdale College's Kirby Center, Broadband
Breakfast and The National Journalism Center, and The Heritage
Foundation. Peterson has a B.A. in Religion and Philosophy from
Hillsdale College. He is also a musician and music enthusiast, and
an avid martial artist.
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