UN E-Mail Tax Faces Growing Opposition

By Ben Anderson | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

(CNS) - The United Nations' proposal to tax e-mail in an effort to spread technology wealth around the world has met its first official opponent in Congress.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) is set to introduce legislation opposing the Internet e-mail tax proposed by the UN, with 45 co-sponsors, according to a legislative synopsis of the resolution. Sen. John Ashcroft (R-MO) will introduce similar legislation in the Senate.

An early draft of the Sessions proposal states that he'll seek a "concurrent resolution expressing the sense of Congress in opposition to a 'bit tax' on Internet data proposed in the Human Development Report 1999 published by the United Nations Development Programme."

A sense of Congress resolution has no binding effect on the UN, but does send a message to the administration that such a proposal would be unacceptable.

The United Nations proposed in July an e-mail tax in an effort to boost Internet technology in less developed countries through a plan UN researchers believe will slow the growth of a so-called "knowledge gap" between the United States and Third World nations.

American researchers and military officials invented the Internet. American corporations further developed it into one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. But United Nations policy makers want to tax Internet e-mail to pay for Third World access to the Internet - a move which they believe will make the World Wide Web live up to its name.

According to a report by the United Nations Development Program entitled Globalization With a Human Face, Internet users are largely comprised of males located in the United States, a situation UN researchers suggest puts the world's undeveloped countries at risk of being left behind in a race for knowledge.

"The literally well connected have an overpowering advantage over the unconnected poor, whose voices and concerns are being left out of the global conversation," the UNDP said in a press release.

Anti-tax advocates denounced the plan as punishing those who achieve and are successful. "Karl Marx would be proud," said Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, noting Marx's statement, "from each according to his means, to each according to his needs."

A team of UN researchers concluded last month that the Internet has led to a "race to lay claim to knowledge," in which the "the global gap between the haves and have-nots, between know and know-nots, is widening." Such circumstances warrant greater "governance of the Internet" in the form of a "bit tax" to supply the "needs and concerns of developing countries," according to the UN report.

While some areas of the world are behind the United States in terms of Internet access, UN policy developers suggest that Internet users in the US be taxed for what they determine to be "large" e-mails. The report does not specify what constitutes a "large" e-mail.

To "rectify the imbalance" between Internet users and non-users, the researchers propose a "tax of one US cent on every 100 lengthy e-mails" which they believe would generate $70 billion a year, according to the report.