Possibly coming soon to a screen near you: a tax on Netflix and just about everything else you download or stream.
Georgia lawmakers, coaxed by dozens of lobbyists swarming the state Capitol, are pushing for a tax on digital video, books, music and video games.
That means you’d pay more for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Kindle e-books, iTunes music, Spotify and internet phone services.
Legislators and internet providers see it as a giant pool of untapped cash that could be used to subsidize construction of internet lines in economically depressed rural parts of the state.
Those who are already connected would pay the price: They’d bear the cost of the 4 percent tax, but its benefits would go toward rural residents who lack high-speed access to online products.
Georgia is the latest state to consider a far-reaching tax on internet services, a virtual gold mine for governments trying to raise money to prop up rural areas that have steadily lost businesses and residents to Atlanta and other cities. Only a handful of other states have imposed this kind of tax so far, but similar proposals have been introduced in legislatures across the country.
Both Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan have expressed reservations about the idea.
The proposal pits current customers against communication companies such as AT&T, who stand to profit because the digital tax would replace existing, higher taxes on cable TV, phones and broadband equipment.
A rural-urban divide
About 66 percent of Georgians oppose the idea of taxing internet, TV and phone services to raise money for rural internet, according to a statewide poll conducted last month for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“We in the city have been taxed enough,” said Beverly Barnes, an Atlanta retiree who was questioned for the poll. “I look at my cable and cellphone bill, and I see we have enough fees. Most people move to the country because it’s cheaper out there. Let them pay for that.”