Greens propose usage-based internet tax

Torrenters beware. Green Party TD and former minister for communications Eamon Ryan has proposed a tax on internet use, based on the amount of data downloaded.

Ryan has proposed a major overhaul of Ireland’s communications regulation including abolishing the television licence and, in what is sure to be a controversial move, taxing internet use and other forms of data consumption.

“One approach to the financing of public sector broadcasting, including the possibility of other media, involves some small charge on the volume of data. This type of funding model would fund public service content and be much easier to charge and cheaper to operate than our current license fee collection system,” he said in a statement issued today.

The rationale for the tax? Funding newsrooms.

Media organisations all over the world are looking to their funding in the future. The age of the internet has rendered our current method close to obsolete, overly bureaucratized and ineffective.

Good journalism, whether on the television, radio, in print or online costs money.

The tax is not about to happen tomorrow. Mr Ryan said: “We need to start with open consultation on a principles based policy approach. We need to answer two main questions – How do we fund newsrooms while maintaining absolute editorial independence.”

The tax proposal comes hand in hand with a proposal of abolishing the TV license – presumably, the data tax would be an alternative, as the world moves into the digital era.

Taxing data consumption is not a new idea. Engineer Vint Cerf, considered a father of the internet, suggested the idea in the early 2000s. In 2008, while working for Google, he also floated the idea of nationalising the entire internet infrastructure.

So now’s the time to download all those episodes of Doctor Who.