EU Cool Over French President's Plan to Tax the Web

24 January 2008

MUNICH: A plan to tax access to French internet and cellphone networks, floated by the nation's president Nicolas Sarkozy, has been coolly greeted by the European Union commissioner for the Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding (pictured). 

Although such a tax would apply only in France, it would likely conflict with the European Commission's stance on digital communications.
Speaking at the annual Digital, Life, Design conference in Munich, Reding told delegates: "I believe the taxation of the new technology might not be the right way in order to arrive at the goal of seamless use of new communication by all citizens."

President Sarkozy's proposal, she said, is "the beginning, not the end of the discussion".
The controversial tax – intended to generate new revenue to compensate French public broadcasters for Sarkozy's proposed ban on radio and TV advertising – has set the cat among the pigeons.
Tariq Krim, head of Netvibes, a Paris-based ISP, said the proposal sent the wrong signal to traditional media companies which, he opined, had made little effort to adopt the changing revenue streams of the digital age.
Complained Krim: "When you think about it, it's crazy. You'd think that it would be the other way around," with old media companies helping to finance new media.
Bernard Desarnauts, vp for products and marketing at digital media network Glam Media was surprisingly unfazed. A "minimal tax" would hardly be felt, he said.
"What Sarkozy can do is build the French brand, and supporting culture would be a way of doing that. This has less to do with the Netvibes of the world. 
"Its benefits for France, on the other hand, might be great, with increased revenue enabling public broadcasters to once again produce high quality French programs, documentaries and films."
Details of the planned tax are, however, shrouded in a mist of inexactitude. No-one [including, probably, Sarkozy] knows who will be taxed and by how much.

Established web giants such as Yahoo and Google have accordingly refrained from comment.

Data sourced from International Herald-Tribune; additional content by WARC staff