Thousands in Hungary march against Internet tax (Update)

Thousands in Hungary march against Internet tax (Update)
Thousands of demonstrators light up their mobile phones as they march through Elizabeth Bridge across River Danube as they protest against an internet tax planned to be introduced by the Hungarian government for the second time in two days in front of the Ministry of National Economy in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. Tens of thousands of protesters marched Tuesday against a plan by the Hungarian government to tax Internet use from 2015. (AP Photo/MTI, Laszlo Beliczay)

Tens of thousands of protesters marched Tuesday against a plan by the Hungarian government to tax Internet use from 2015.

The rally, the second in three days objecting to the scheme, was also a sign of growing discontent among mostly younger citizens against Prime Minister Viktor Orban's policies centralizing power and increasing the role of the state to the detriment of private enterprise.

Orban's governing party, Fidesz, won its second consecutive two-thirds majority in April and he is starting his third four-year term. After conflicts from 2010 with the European Union and criticism from the United States and others on new laws regulating everything from the media to churches, lately the Orban government has been reproached for intimidating independent civic groups, including corruption watchdogs and minority advocates, and for its efforts to deepen ties with Russia.

Speakers outside the Economy Ministry called on Orban to withdraw the plan to force Internet service providers to pay 700 forints ($2.89, 2.27 euros) per individual subscriber and 5,000 forints per business subscriber every month. There are concerns that the tax will not be absorbed by the service providers, as the government claims.

Thousands in Hungary march against Internet tax (Update)
Thousands of demonstrators protest against an internet tax planned to be introduced by the Hungarian government for the second time in two days in front of the Ministry of National Economy in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. Tens of thousands of protesters marched Tuesday against a plan by the Hungarian government to tax Internet use from 2015. The inscription on Guy Fawkes mask reads: "Unity, freedom!" (AP Photo/MTI, Janos Marjai)

"The ideal amount of the Internet tax is not 700 or 5,000 forints but exactly zero," Internet entrepreneur Zsolt Varady told the crowd, which was estimated by local media at between 35,000 and 40,000 people and chanted a slew of anti-government slogans.

Initially, the tax was set to be 150 forints per gigabyte of Internet traffic, but Fidesz said it would set a cap on the levy.

The government, which announced the proposal last week before any consultations with industry groups or even Fidesz lawmakers, gave several explanations for the measure—it was meant to complement a tax on telephone calls, as people were increasingly using the Internet to make calls; it would take a bite out of the telecommunications companies' allegedly large profits; and the new revenues would help improve Internet access in rural areas.

Ryan Heath, spokesman for EU Digital Commissioner Neelie Kroes, said the plan was "bad in principle" and could hinder economic growth.

Thousands in Hungary march against Internet tax (Update)
Thousands of demonstrators flash their mobile phones as they march through Elizabeth Bridge across River Danube as they protest against an internet tax planned to be introduced by the Hungarian government for the second time in two days in front of the Ministry of National Economy in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. Tens of thousands of protesters marched Tuesday against a plan by the Hungarian government to tax Internet use from 2015. (AP Photo/MTI, Janos Marjai)

"Hungary is below the EU average in virtually every single digital indicator and the digital part of the economy is probably the main thing keeping Europe out of recession right now," Heath told reporters in Brussels. "So taxing that ... is a particularly bad idea."

The EU Commission also fears Hungary's plan would be copied by others.

Thousands in Hungary march against Internet tax (Update)
Demonstrators light up their mobile phones as they march through Elizabeth Bridge across River Danube, during a protest against an internet tax planned to be introduced by the Hungarian government for the second time in two days in front of the Ministry of National Economy in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. Tens of thousands of protesters marched Tuesday against a plan by the Hungarian government to tax Internet use from 2015. (AP Photo/MTI, Laszlo Beliczay)

"If Hungary becomes a precedent in this instance, it can become a problem in a lot of other member states and can be a problem for Europe's wider economic growth," Heath said.

Protesters vowed to continue the rallies, which were also held in several other Hungarian cities and at some Hungarian embassies in EU countries, until the government withdraws the tax plan.

  • Thousands in Hungary march against Internet tax (Update)
    Demonstrators march through the streets of Budapest, as they protest against an internet tax planned to be introduced by the Hungarian government, for the second time in two days, in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. Tens of thousands of protesters marched Tuesday against a plan by the Hungarian government to tax Internet use from 2015. The inscription of the banner reads: "No to the internet tax!" (AP Photo/MTI, Laszlo Beliczay)
  • Thousands in Hungary march against Internet tax (Update)
    Thousands of demonstrators march through Elizabeth Bridge across River Danube as they protest against an internet tax planned to be introduced by the Hungarian government for the second time in two days in front of the Ministry of National Economy in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. Tens of thousands of protesters marched Tuesday against a plan by the Hungarian government to tax Internet use from 2015. (AP Photo/MTI, Laszlo Beliczay)
  • Thousands in Hungary march against Internet tax (Update)
    Thousands of demonstrators march through Elizabeth Bridge across River Danube as they protest against an internet tax planned to be introduced by the Hungarian government for the second time in two days in front of the Ministry of National Economy in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. Tens of thousands of protesters marched Tuesday against a plan by the Hungarian government to tax Internet use from 2015. (AP Photo/MTI, Janos Marjai)

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User comments

Oct 28, 2014
The EU should suspend Hungary, no ifs, no buts.

Oct 28, 2014
If a tax does go on the internet, it should go on the SENDER not the recipient of data. This would reduce the number of spam advertisements, banner ads, and search ads I have to download (or block) every time I refresh the page in my browser.

Think about it. Most of the content you download on each refresh isn't even the content you are looking for. It's a bunch of advertisements you don't even want to see.

Oct 29, 2014
Okay, whoever gave me a "1".

Why should I have to PAY to read someone else's advertisements that I don't even want to see?

Why should my ISP have to re-transmit those ads every time I download something, knowing I don't want to see them? It costs them money to do that, and they aren't really making anything extra by doing so. ISP ought to be able to charge Google and Facebook and other search ad companies money to transmit their ads, rather than charging the end user for the content.

Yesterday I was going to use my iPhone to look at a certain website, and I was waiting for it to load, and I realized with all the videos plus all the search adds that were loading, I'd use my entire data plan just to view one site, so I quickly disconnected from the page.

I can't stand fricken banner ads and sidebar ads hogging all my bandwidth and processor time.

It's MY computer. The ad company should have to pay me for my processor time.

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