Earlier this month, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had the pleasure of getting grilled on Capitol Hill.
Although questioning jumped around from dorm-room antics to data collection, one theme remained steady: Does the Internet need federal regulation?
Few believe elected officials are best-suited for the task, so regulation hasn’t exactly received enthusiastic demand, but there is one thing they do understand pretty well: Taxation.
Any business you create — app to brick-and-mortar — carries state and federal costs.
If you register an LLC, for example, you pay filing fees, licensing fees, legal fees, insurance fees, and more.
These are just the basics.
On the flip side, you can start blogging for free (like I do here). You can monetize it and file taxes at year’s end. It’s like starting a business without all the licenses, fees, and regulations.
One country wants to change that.
In March of this year, the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations went into effect in the United Republic of Tanzania. The regulations require bloggers to pay a slew of fees.
Under the regulations, bloggers need to file for a license that costs 100,000 Tanzanian Shillings (about $44). They also need to pay an initial license fee of 1,000,000 Tanzanian Shillings ($440), and then pay an annual license fee of 1,000,000 Tanzanian Shillings ($440).
With the new regulations, it will cost more than $900 to create a basic blog in Tanzania.
Basic means text only.
If you want to add a podcast or a video series, you will have to pay additional fees for each of those services. Both streaming video and audio fees total 450,000 Tanzanian Shillings (about $200) each.
All in all, a website with text, video, and audio will run you $1,300 just in licensing and fees. That rivals the total start-up cost of most micro-businesses in the U.S.
So will U.S. officials ever charge blog licensing and registration fees?
When you look at the numbers, it seems these fees function more as a deterrent to freedom of press than a tax solution, so any U.S. blogging fees shouldn’t be this extreme.
But just recently, President Trump started a spat with Amazon by saying the company is cheating taxpayers and the post office out of billions of dollars by not paying its fair share.
When businesses start paying higher fees, they find a way to pass the cost on to the consumer.
So this could be just the beginning.