Social media tax: Telecoms to block VPNs, says UCC
- Written by URN
Soon, social media users running to virtual private networks (VPN) applications to evade paying tax on Over-the-Top (OTT) services will have no where hide anymore as telecommunications companies have promised to block VPN usage.
According to Uganda Communications Commission executive director, Godfrey Mutabazi telecoms will slowly, one by one block VPN applications that are aiding Ugandans to evade paying the social media tax.
The social media tax took effect on June 1 at the start of the 2018/2019 financial year. The tax has triggered uproar among Ugandans - some have grudgingly paid it - while others are chest thumping for evading it to access social sites using VPNs applications.
VPN enables internet users to hide their Internet Protocol (IP) address. The IP addresses are distributed geographically and can be used to identify internet users' location. People with VPN unblocked their social media sites without paying the tax.
Mutabazi said that telecoms promised and are already blocking VPNs. But he added that there are many VPNs, admitting that not all of them can be blocked. Mutabazi further argued that those who are going for VPNs instead of paying the social media tax are taking an unwise decision. He said VPNs consume more data than the daily Shs 200 tax.
"If you’re saying that everybody is on VPN ,there is no evidence. However the telecoms are saying they’re slowly they are cleaning up all those VPNs, they are closing some. You know there are so many of them. On a daily basis they are doing the blockage. You know you cant be 100% but they are doing it." said Mutabazi.
"However another point, if you think it is cheaper to use VPN than paying Shs 200/day, I think it is very unwise to think that because the data consumption under VPN is very high, I think you’re aware of that."
Mutabazi said Ugandans should pay the tax instead of going for VPNs. "It's a government decision it's not a UCC decision. People should pay tax. It's a law, if the government says pay tax, you should pay," he said.
On Thursday telecom companies notified customers in a joint statement that they would be required to pay Shs 200 per day, Shs 1,400 for a week or Shs 6,000 for a month to access social media lest they would be blocked.
When contacted for comment on blocking VPNs, MTN Uganda spokesperson Val Okecho had no immediate comment. However, he promised to consult and call back. It would seem that internet service providers would have no urgency to block VPN applications as they still earn from data usage anyway.
A constitutional petition challenging the tax is expected to be filed in court tomorrow. In February 2016, internet users in Uganda downloaded over 1.5 million VPN applications in a space of three days when the telecommunication companies blocked social media following a government directive.
" For a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle" Winston Churchill
Museveni should understand that; don't bite the hands that feed you. It's a desperate gamble from a dying regime.
It will backfire before they come for him.
The whole thing is designed to gage Ugandans not to discuss freely the outcome of the Age bill and the next elections.
On another note, why is Alphonse (Okot) Owing Dollo taking too long to deliberate on the Age bill? His he scared of the dictator or he has already sold his soul to the devil? History will tell.
How I wish the framers of this tax had told us that it was for bulding schools, stocking hospitals etc, they told us they were punishing us for talking too much!
Lysol, Alphonse (Okot) Owing Dollo and team are in a very tight spot.
Actually as the lead Justice, he is asking for your humble prayers: if ever it works.
In other words, the Monster is eyeballing and breathing hot air on his neck.
In Uganda government tax income is stolen by the chosen few who live in palaces while the majority sleep in windowless shacks surrounded by water (ntobazi).
The President keeps on telling the gullible Ugandans that women should stop buying wigs from abroad, and must stop buying foreign goods to preserve our foreign earnings.
Brilliant pronouncement but wigs and some few "luxuries" imported by Ugandans cannot be compared to among other many presidential imports, a personal jet which whisks Museveni to any where in the world at the stroke of the pen for whatever reasons he perceives.
If that plane is sold, many empty hospitals would be stocked with drugs which the poor who cannot be flown abroad to give births can easily avail themselves.
Taxes must be usefully applied for the purposes they are paid for by suffering Ugandans. This communications tax hurts only the poor.