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Hungary To Tax Internet Traffic 324

An anonymous reader writes: The Hungarian government has announced a new tax on internet traffic: 150 HUF ($0.62 USD) per gigabyte. In Hungary, a monthly internet subscription costs around 4,000-10,000 HUF ($17-$41), so it could really put a constraint on different service providers, especially for streaming media. This kind of tax could set back the country's technological development by some 20 years — to the pre-internet age. As a side note, the Hungarian government's budget is running at a serious deficit. The internet tax is officially expected to bring in about 20 billion HUF in income, though a quick look at the BIX (Budapest Internet Exchange) and a bit of math suggests a better estimate of the income would probably be an order of magnitude higher.
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Hungary To Tax Internet Traffic

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  • by halivar ( 535827 ) <bfelger.gmail@com> on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @09:01AM (#48202729)

    "Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it." -- Ronald Reagan

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      How is "OMG I can't afford to stream 8 hours of video a day any more" going to set society back 20 years? If anything, it will be a huge improvement.

      People are rational actors, and demand for internet is flexible. The cheaper it is, the more people use. Raise the price, they cut back and substitute another product (dvds, other activities). Same as any other non-essential service.

      The "Information superhighway" hasn't existed for years. It was replaced by streaming entertainment. Actual "information",

      • Streaming videos isn't the only use of the internet. At $0.62 per gigabyte, it will not cost $0.62 cents every time you want to download a Linux ISO (usually about 1 GB). CentOS is about 4 GB, meaning it would cost about $2.50 just download that. Downloading updates and security patches would also cost you extra. Perhaps people will turn off updates in order to save money, which would create all kinds of security issues. Want to download the latest game? That's going to cost you extra. Even if you only
      • "How is "OMG I can't afford to stream 8 hours of video a day any more" going to set society back 20 years?"

        "Raise the price, they cut back and substitute another product (dvds..."

        Which part of the 1990s did you miss?

        • by rioki ( 1328185 )

          Connection Established... ...
          Welcome to Pirate ISP, the place where we don't care about taxes.

      • by Vitriol+Angst ( 458300 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @09:55AM (#48203111)

        You forget that once you METER something, then it effects everything down the line. It's not just the payment -- it's the effort involved in dealing with the payment.

        If someone at a school or business has to create a purchase order to request "X amount of projected Bits of Internet use" -- then the school/business has to meter and check and someone has to approve and someone else has to check the process.

        Sure the internet is a flexible commodity -- but it's not just the COST that will go up, it's the speed that will go down. You've just changed it from free form expression to something that has to be justified each and every time. Might as well get out that AOL floppy and fire up the old Modem and see if the government is checking the phone lines.

      • You do realize that streaming video also includes online coursework, right? Like the exact type of thing that could improve your knowledge base, which leads to better jobs which leads to more money being made and more taxes being brought in? Streaming coursework is *huge* in a number of these countries, as it's one of the cheapest, most readily available ways to improve your lot in life.
      • How is "OMG I can't afford to stream 8 hours of video a day any more" going to set society back 20 years? If anything, it will be a huge improvement.

        OK. So it will only set it back 10 years to the pre-internet-streaming days. I suppose Netflix and its Hungarian competitors may see revenue loss.

        Some other ways to lower bandwitdth useage. Stop buying games that stream over the internet (loss of sales again), stop your updates from downloading as they can be quite large (cyber-security issues increase as people's PCs become less secure). You can also stop using video conferencing and, perhaps VoIP.

        Won't do well for OS's that stream either (LINUX).

        I can see

      • I work from home mostly because it's cheaper than driving into an office. I use in the area of 300Gb a month if a $0.62/Gb tax was implemented the tax would be 4 times my subscription fee and it would suddenly be cheaper to drive.

      • by astro ( 20275 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @10:42AM (#48203505) Homepage

        It's not just about streaming. Downloading a modern Linux distro will now cost Hungarians almost five bucks. Downloading a current-gen game on steam, which will already cost them €60 (roughly 80 dollars) will now cost 15 dollars more.

      • I was thinking along your lines, instead of getting rid of all the video, though, I think people would get back to the habit of downloading and sharing stuff via local networks or sneakernet, and discover ways to keep local storage in sync like with git annex [branchable.com]. Also, online content that is DRM and stream-only would suffer.
        But this would make some big interests very upset, and Hungary government is no match for them, so they will find some way to curb alternative uses of networking. This means that we won't s

      • by rca66 ( 818002 )
        Who are you to decide what is essential and what is not? On Youtube one can watch cats falling from chairs, but as well online lectures about a wide range of topics, panel discussions, political and social comments, media critics and so on and so on. Just because you don't have a demand in videos doesn't mean that videos are in general something superfluous and something which is ok to get rid of.
      • The idea gives me slightly perverse glee. My first thought was "okay, switch to opus for audio to cut bandwidth without sacrificing quality, switch to smaller, lower-bandwidth videos and stop using video for everything, better still, avoid "cloud-only" services and switch to mostly legally-downloadable entertainment and download-and-store-locally instead of wastefully streaming everything every time you want to watch/listen, make more of an effort to reduce media sizes (and stop sending via email, which bl
    • Stage 1 was confiscation of private pensions [csmonitor.com]. No nation can not tax or confiscate its way out of political incompetence and corruption. This road leads to anarchy or war.

      • Nice to see that the Christian Science Monitor completely misses the raid by Gordon Brown and the Labour Party after they won the elections in 1997 in the UK - they raided pension funds to the tune of £5Billion a year from the very start.

    • by Vitriol+Angst ( 458300 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @09:50AM (#48203069)

      Anyone getting mod points as "insightful" for quoting Reagan shows that we still have people who haven't figured out that Supply Side is a fancy term for Economic Royalists about to crash the economy.

      It takes a lot of myopia and selecting history editing to make anything from the Reagan era a good idea. Most Reagan fans still have not figured out that he doubled taxes on the self employed and only lowered it for businesses and the wealthy. Sure, this sounds like a troll comment -- but the difference is; it's true.

      Oh, and Reaganites doubled the money going to Social Security -- which was right (except for the limit that kept wealthy people from paying more), so that SS is solvent. And yet, nobody knows that it's SUPPOSED to zero out around the time baby boomers are in the grave because it's mostly a transfer fund,... that's probably going to come as a shock and nonsense to most. That's why we have Think Tanks, so everyone else stops thinking.

      • Solvent? There is nothing but IOU's in the "trust fund" - future taxation is the plan for paying out SS. Between that and Medicare for the boomers, each non-retiree (man , woman, and child) is on the hook for $900K in additional taxation over the boomers' retirement. Gene therapy will be banned and age wars seem possible. Arithmetic is inflexible that way.

        http://www.npr.org/2011/08/06/... [npr.org]

        • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

          There is nothing but IOU's in the "trust fund"

          This nonsense again? Those are Treasury Bonds, not IOU's. If the U.S. up and declares trillions of bonds to be null and void, what do you think is going to happen to it's fiat currency? The USG would rather deal with an invasion than let that happen.

          • by jfengel ( 409917 )

            Still, the Trust Fund seems like a rather odd concept. It's a government promise to pay for... something it had already promised to pay, namely Social Security benefits. If the Trust Fund runs out, it's still on the hook to pay those benefits.

            The program was intended to be pay-as-you-go. The SSTF was supposed to be a way to save against the Baby Bust being unable to pay for its parents, but where can you really save that kind of money? No bank can handle it; it would badly skew any stock market you tried to

          • A bond is an IOU, but US Treasury Bonds are special in that they will not default on them, but they are not the same thing as pallets of $100 bills sitting in a warehouse. The part of these discussion I take issue with is the X thousands of dollars per citizen in unfunded liabilities. While based in fact it is the amount that would be needed to be taken right now to cover expenses for the next 75 years assuming no change in incoming revenue or decrease in projected benefits. It is just a big scary number us
      • Supply side is the only economics that exist, if there is no supply there is no economy, all real economies are based on creating stuff, consumption is the trivial part of the process.

        Of-course to consume you have to produce, which means if you are unproductive you cannot afford to consume what other people produce and what the economy became with all the taxing, regulations and inflation (money printing) is exactly this: vendor financed consumption without any chance of returning the debt that is accumulat

      • That's why we have Think Tanks, so everyone else stops thinking.

        This. So much this. And the other stuff as well. But this...

      • by bjdevil66 ( 583941 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @11:47AM (#48204053)

        The original post makes a good point about the stifling effects of over-taxation and over-regulation - not some argument for supply side economics.

        Did you even think about the post, or did you immediately start typing up your anti-Reagan blast? Did you listen, or wait to talk?

        It's amazing how reactionary people are online these days. Look at some of the other responses besides this one. They can be summed up with - "Ohhp... someone said Ronald Reagan. Nanananana - not listening!".

        And people on the left wonder why Barack Obama's better ideas get buried in a wave of "rethuglican" ignorance - the exact, same way. Critical thought has given away to intellectual laziness and yelling factoids back and forth. No respect or compassion or will to work together... just "win the next election."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @09:02AM (#48202739)

    So taxes "set back the country's technological development by some 20 years", and when it's the internet the Slashdot crowd agrees.

    But if it's anything else, taxes are so great. "Pay your share!" Despite the fact that the government doing the taxing is just going to use those resources against you in the form of militarized police, warrantless wiretaps, and drone surveillance.

    • by halivar ( 535827 ) <bfelger.gmail@com> on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @09:04AM (#48202749)

      Errr... so I am sympathetic to the argument in general, but this case is about Hungary, not the US.

    • by mcvos ( 645701 )

      But if it's anything else, taxes are so great. "Pay your share!" Despite the fact that the government doing the taxing is just going to use those resources against you in the form of militarized police, warrantless wiretaps, and drone surveillance.

      The problem here is not the principle of paying your taxes, but that you guys keep electing the wrong people into office and don't punish them for giving you all that crap.

      It doesn't matter what else you do. As long as you keep electing bad governments, you're going to get bad governance. Nothing is going to fix your problems until you fix that.

    • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @09:46AM (#48203041) Homepage Journal

      You're talking over half a buck ($0.62) per gigabyte.

      Think about this in terms of AT&T's DSL service. Where you're capped at 150GB (and it's ridiculously easy to exceed).

      That's an additional $93 over and above the cost of the connection itself! The ISPs are currently selling connections for $20-40 a pop.

      How, EXACTLY, are ISPs supposed to simply absorb these costs?

      The correct answer is "they aren't".

      So the additional costs are going to get kicked onto the end-user's bill.

      Now imagine your $20 a month internet services suddenly becoming a $110 a month internet service.

      This is a way to encourage people to NEVER use their internet service.

      It's the sort of thing that can cripple the entire industry in that country.

    • Internet service is taxed in the US, right? In some way? I guess I could look at my bill, but aren't there any fees such as exist with a landline?
      Not that I'm saying it should/shouldn't be taxed, but...

      Say there is a really popular forum (the physical kind, not internet) for people to mingle with other people and discuss/argue about anything they feel like talking about.
      Let's say there is some monthly membership fee paid to the government for the use of the place, say $10/month.
      Now, imagine if the gov

    • by paziek ( 1329929 )
      Not sure how it is in Hungary, but in Poland ISP subscriptions are taxed by VAT, I think its 23%. Actually, almost everything is taxed like that. So why tax it again? If ISP would charge me per gigabyte then that would be taxed by VAT as well. They don't charge me like that (unless its mobile network), so there should be no tax on this either.

      Yes, there is stuff that is taxed not just by VAT, for example alcohols, tobacco, petrol and such. Is that fair? Debatable, since you could argue "They cost public
    • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

      But if it's anything else, taxes are so great. "Pay your share!"

      There's another term for self-important elitists paying their share of taxes: guillotine insurance.

      Despite the fact that the government doing the taxing is just going to use those resources against you in the form of militarized police, warrantless wiretaps, and drone surveillance.

      Despite the fact that the largest post-Vietnam increases in war spending happened after Reagan's budget busting tax cuts and then again after Bush II's budget busting

    • by pla ( 258480 )
      But if it's anything else, taxes are so great.

      Wait, what? We reading the same website here?

      The same website where we routinely see rants about attempts to tax Amazon? Where people seethe over paying POTS-era taxes on data-only cell plans? Where people routinely complain that we need to do away with SS and privatize all retirement benefits? Where Obamacare causes flamewars and we consider WIC a necessary evil?

      Offhand, I can think of only a single pro-tax issue generally considered "great" among Sl
  • Mmmm, Internet tax!

  • Or something essential was lost in translation.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hey, it was! This is just a draft proposal. Nothing implemented yet.

  • How interesting, you're paying initially for the opportunity to use the internet at a cretain bandwidth and then actually paying for the content you're using. Sort of like paying the capital cost for the infrastructure and then paying for the usage. Like paying for the sewer pipes each month then paying for water. While this isn't ideal, I don't consider it a terrible way to look at things. Maybe if you had a reduced subscription so everything balanced out (though we all know that won't happen).
  • by tibit ( 1762298 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @09:12AM (#48202799)

    Hungary is, sadly, turning into authoritarian regime focused on maintaining the power of those at the top. Anything that feeds their spending habits is on the table, I'm sure. We should expect more news like that coming from Hungary :(

    • They should tax the bad news about the Hungarian government 3X if they really wanted to make money and put the boot down.

  • Already taxed? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fafaforza ( 248976 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @09:21AM (#48202877)

    Isn't the Internet already taxed? Not sure about Hungary, but most places you're taxed for the computer you buy, and for Internet service you get from a provider. The provider is likely taxed for the copper/fiber, taxed for the employees they have, the equipment they purchase. Electricity, real estate, etc related to this endeavor. That's all taxed. Sounds like a desperate government out of ideas.

    • In the US you're taxed for the car you buy (at the time and yearly) as well as the insurance you need to have. Does that mean there shouldn't be a gas tax as well? Welcome to modern society. It costs money.
      • But Verizon owns the road and maintains it, if we follow your analogy.

        And I pay to drive on the NJ Turnpike, which is privately owned.

        • You pay taxes on your cell phone bill and you pay the gas tax for what you consume on the privately owned NJ Turnpike. The only sure thing in life is death and taxes.
          • Well, aren't cell taxes for the use of government owned frequencies? Some cell towers might also be on public lands.

            And gas tax is meant for public road maintenance. When I am on the Turnpike, my EZ-Pass fee is what pays for this private road's maintenance. Don't confuse the two. Imagine that public roads don't exist. I pay directly for use of privately-owned infrastructure. Verizon's fiber to the house is privately owned. They pay the government taxes on it already, and pass that cost onto me. The

    • Yeah - I thought Hungary was part of the EU, which means that they have the VAT, which means they have a tax on services, which means the internet is already taxed.

      This must be a second tax on the internet. Seems excessive.
  • by Torp ( 199297 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @09:24AM (#48202889)

    ... looks like an attempt to restrict free speech from a little closer to Hungary. The current regime has serious totaliarian tendencies and this tax (which will raise internet connection prices) leaves less avenues of communication for the Hungarian citizens.
    Note the prices for an internet connection; at 30 gbytes/month, this tax could double the entry level price. At the average salary in Hungary, the extra $18 will be felt.

  • by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @09:30AM (#48202933)
    This summary is a bit hysterical, in the excessively panicked sense. TFA indicates there is a cap on taxes for both individuals and service providers, and this DRAFT bill is likely to contain the same sort of provisions. Of course, whether such a tax is a good idea is up for debate, but statements like "could set back the country's technological development by some 20 years" are ridiculous. Excise taxes already exist on other goods and services without complete disaster.
  • by clonehappy ( 655530 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @09:38AM (#48202989)

    I am absolutely shocked. How about they cut their goddamn spending and subsist on the taxes they are already collecting before instituting a ridiculous "per-GB" internet tax. FFS, does the idea of spending less money ever even cross a government's mind? Now, before I get branded some evil right-winger racist luddite tinfoil hat wearing neanderthal, I don't disagree with taxes that perform a function.

    If the government is providing a service or function, such as roads, technological infrastructure, schools, etc. I fully agree with taxes to support them. But taxing arbitrary goods/services provided by third parties just because you want to keep living high on the hog? That, to me, is a sickening example of why spending needs to be scrutinized and real fiscal responsibility needs to be in place in government. It's just too easy to keep spending when it's everyone else's money.

    • by u38cg ( 607297 )
      There are revenues, which have sources, and spending commitments. You seem to be confusing them. Hypothecation is not, generally speaking, a thing.
      • Not really. What I'm saying is don't make spending commitments that you do not have a source of revenue to back it up with. Government is great at spending money that they don't have when they know all they need to do is steal some more from the public at a later date and everything will work out for them in the end.

  • by Skinkie ( 815924 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @09:49AM (#48203061) Homepage
    I guess then the proper thing to do is to form a cordon sanitaire on all internet services delivered to the Hungarian governmental organisations effectively blackout their entire operation. How is that for democracy :-)
  • Attempted Censorship by any other name....

  • I usually use about 300 gigabyte a month easy due to streaming. This alone would add an extra $186 to the $63 a month I already pay. So essentially I would have a $249 bill if we were subject to something like this where I live. No thanks,I would just not have an internet connection and would tether off my phone when I needed to. If I just stuck with the necessities I would only need to get online with my PC for school work and what not, and this wouldn’t use much bandwidth at all. Also I could handle
  • by KermodeBear ( 738243 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @10:22AM (#48203339) Homepage

    Yes, adding yet another tax is one way to help that, but why do governments worldwide - mine included - never consider the possibility that they're spending too much money? When our government is spending money on swedish massages for rabbits [washingtontimes.com] and then whining that they don't have enough cash to toss around, I am completely uninterested in giving them a single penny more.

  • If the government needs to collect more tax, why not raise the general tax levels rather than introduce this tax? The tax burden will be the same in both cases, but the internet tax takes it all from internet users rather than spreading it out (or even taking it preferentially from those who can afford it, like progressive tax does).

    The main argument for specific taxes like this is to use it as an incentive for people to change their behavior. For example, one may tax driving in city centers to reduce the c

  • They did it wrong clearly.

    The idea is that a certain amount of the economy is flowing through the internet and the government feels it has a right a fraction of that just as they claim from everything.

    I can get that far.

    Then I get what they did by charging by bandwidth. This is an attempt to make the tax progressive so that small users pay very little and big users pay a lot. I get that too.

    The problem with this idea is that the amount of traffic is accelerating and the tax isn't reasonable if everyone's in

  • Get a virus... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dargaud ( 518470 ) <slashdot2@NosPaM.gdargaud.net> on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @11:22AM (#48203835) Homepage
    ...and as it starts spewing Gb after Gb of spam, you are now bankrupt. Nice. Or if you have a server in the country and fall victim to a DOS attack, you must now pay for the Tb of data exchanged in the DOS and must sell your firstborn to pay the tax.
  • by prefec2 ( 875483 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2014 @11:42AM (#48204009)

    The prime minister of Hungary wants to transform Hungary into a "un liberal" state. In short he wants to play Putin in his country. His primary goal right now is to push out any foreign investment. This new law targets that and in addition may help to control the opposition. The normal media is already under his control.
    A yes and in addition Hungary is becoming more and more racist.

  • I bet there are going to be some epic lan parties again! Man do i miss those days. I don't miss the lugging my tower and monitor around, but Now that laptops run games so well, you'd think lans would come back.

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