Following the Punjab Government’s recent move to impose taxes on internet services, several Pakistani bloggers have started a protest campaign, which was confirmed by in a press conference by the digital publishers of Pakistan in Lahore.
The Punjab Government, in a bid to raise revenue, imposed a massive 19.5% tax on all internet services which cost Rs. 1,500 or more per month or offer speeds of 2Mbps and more. With this order, which has been termed effective, internet prices will soar, making highspeed broadband internet in effect less accessible.
The tax is essentially applicable on all types of internet services in the province, including 3G, 4G, DSL, EVDO and fiber. Similarly, it is expected that this taxation policy will be applicable in the federal territory and other provinces as well.
The protest campaign against the government’s decision is supported by telcos, banks, and other associations along with the civil society. It is believed that this taxation of the internet will also adversely affect the uptake of high speed 3G and 4G subscriptions, which are currently estimated to be around 15 million.
Telecom operators in the country invested heavily in infrastructure upgrades and 3G and 4G licenses last year, and the government’s move to impose heavy taxes on the internet will make such investments and future upgrades less than favorable for them.
According to a research, such taxes will affect internet uptake, which is going to cause more damage to the country’s economy in the coming years. Pakistan has a lot of ground to cover in sectors such as e-banking and e-education, and the imposition of such taxes is believed to slow down growth and have a negative impact in the long run.
It remains to be seen whether the government will revise its decision following protests against taxes on internet services.