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Does the United Nations have the authority to tax the Internet?

Updated on October 18, 2012

Today there is movement within the United Nations organization regarding taxing users of the Internet. The question to be asked which seems to be evading coverage is whether the United Nations has not only the authority but the capability to tax the Internet. The structure of the Internet and the usage by millions of individuals and organization make it difficult if not impossible to create a system to tax users worldwide.

This proposal is set to be debated at the United Nations sometime in December and the subject seems to be ignored by the mainstream media. Issues of this nature would cripple the ability of Internet Providers to provide information on a worldwide scale. Access to information in developing countries would also have the possibility of being limited if not totally unavailable. The proposal was presented by the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association or ETNO which is comprised of 35 nations at this time. At this point it is unclear as to the connection and relationship with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) which is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs)

The two organizations identified in the preceding paragraph are more than likely foreign to many individuals and organizations that are not involved with them. It is clear that those of us who are not involved with their purpose and objectives that we need to voice our opinion on the current tax being proposed on the Internet

A little unknown law for which an extension was signed by President Bush prohibits multiple and discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce until November 1, 2014. This legislation in and of itself raises questions as to whether the United Nations can supersede laws enacted in various countries concerning the Internet or anything else. The legislation is titled The Internet Tax Freedom Act Amendments of 2007. One question with this legislation and others of this type is why these topics cannot be made permanent. This one involving the Internet is clearly in the best interest of users in the United States. It is also unknown at this point the impact of this legislation if the tax being proposed is approved.

The main purpose of the United Nations as I see it is to offer a means to communicate with other countries and potentially settle disputes or issues involving other member countries. Clearly the intent and purpose of the United Nations is not to levy taxes for a communication tool used throughout the world. While members of this organization can make proposals to other members often times we need to look at who is making the proposal. The issue of creating a tax structure as proposed by a European Network Operators should raise some questions.

I totally understand the need for consistency in communication technology around the world. Some reports whether true or not states that the United States is in favor of this tax though it is uniquely unpopular and against current legislation in effect as previously mentioned. The impact of the tax as has been identified from various organizations would be catastrophic in terms of limiting Internet usage by imposing a cost to access the Internet. The main point of this article is the fact that the Internet it is not owned or controlled by a single country. It is true there are organizations that have certain authorities with respect to providing some consistency in terms of regulating the identity of domains to ensure there is no duplication. The United Nations organization and the organization which provides consistency in terms of domain registrations however do not have taxing power or authority. The tax as it is proposed would charge the user a fee each time they access the Internet through such sites as Facebook, Google and Yahoo to name a few. After the debate is held in December if it is approved it would be it would be contrary to the principles and purpose of the organization. It is hoped that when the debate begins on this proposal that we send a strong signal that we are against such a tax.

Finally news coverage has been about the election but this topic should at least have greater exposure after the election. It is also hoped that regardless of who wins the election that there be activity to outright reject the proposed tax. The impact would if passed would also be contrary to the principles embodied in the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Understanding the ITU and its purpose will be covered in another article. The impact of the proposed tax is to change the dynamics of the Internet and how individuals, organizations and businesses utilize the Internet in their daily activities. It is imperative that coverage of the debate on this proposal be widespread so all individuals understand the scope of the proposal and the impact it will have on their daily activities.


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    • Dennis AuBuchon profile image

      Dennis AuBuchon 5 years ago

      Thanks Michele and rfmoran for your comments.

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Because the UN has no jurisdiction over a sovereign nation like the US, I can't see how it could be enforced. But with overseas transactions, it creates an interesting and scary set of possibilities. Where would the revenues go?

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 5 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      Who has the authority in the United Nations to set up taxes, laws that effect all the countries in the entire world? There are only a few that are not in the UN, like Iran, North Korea and a few more. But, how much of the internet do they even use?

      Of course they are not a ruling body, but if they are given permission to set up taxes, are they growing to be a ruling body?

    • Dennis AuBuchon profile image

      Dennis AuBuchon 5 years ago

      Thanks for your comments and I totally agree with you that it is not a ruling body.

    • profile image

      SassySue1963 5 years ago

      This is just another US hate group. It is all about attacking Google, Facebook, Apple and Netflix. It might not have an affect on US users really, but they will deny connectivity to non-US users to avoid the usage tax.

      The UN needs to be reigned in IMO. They are fast getting some idea that they are some sort of ruling body and they aren't.