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PUC-Texas increasing tax on phone companies to aid rural cell phone services

Posted at 6:41 PM, Aug 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-10 19:41:05-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Diana Leyba answered the phone with, “This is Diana, just calling to see how you were doing,” remembering a time when her cell phone service in the Cindy Park neighborhood in Robstown wasn’t strong.

She lives in the more rural outskirts of Robstown and said about five years ago, her cell phone service wasn’t as good, her phone calls would drop or she wouldn't even receive any.

“It was really bad that we couldn’t get service out there. It was like a dead zone, even when you were speaking to someone, it would go off,” Leyba said.

However, after a cell phone tower was installed near her neighborhood, the quality of her phone calls got better.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas increased a tax from about three percent to 24 percent on phone companies.

The extra money is going toward the Texas Universal Service Fund which helps maintain cell phone services in rural parts of Texas, such as Leyba’s neighborhood.

The Texas Tribune reports the rate hike would mostly affect residents in rural areas who make long distance calls, but the rate hike would not affect customers who do not make long distance calls.

“I make it to Forth Worth, to Dallas, to Ohio,” Leyba said, describing the phone calls she makes.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas told KRIS6 News that phone companies will choose whether to tax customers. They said if companies do tax their customers, it would not apply to their overall bill. They say the tax could range based on a customer’s contract with their provider.

They said the rate hike is temporary and could be going down next year.

Nueces County residents like Adam Fisher supports the tax, saying, “It’s not that big a deal if it helps people that can’t have a service that we all share.”

However, Nueces County resident Santos Ronje said it would be tough for him to support an additional tax, saying, “As it is now, I think we’re overtaxed on the cell coverage.”

Leyba said while the tax rate hike might hurt her pocket, it could also help reception in her area.

“I think we’ll be well off anyway because I mean, the service is good and in the rural area it’s gotten a lot better and I don’t complain,” she said.