Hungary PM ditches internet tax plans after mass protests

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Following mass protests across the country over the past week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced on Friday that he would scrap a planned internet tax.

The idea of taxing internet service providers for every gigabyte of data flowing across their networks was condemned by everyone from telcos and Hungary’s opposition party to Steelie Neelie of the European Commission. A Facebook group opposing the tax garnered more than 200,000 members and tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets last Sunday and again on Tuesday night.

In the face of such opposition, Orban said on a radio show early Friday morning that he would drop the tax for now and instead hold a nationwide public consultation on internet regulation at the beginning of next year.

"This tax in its current form cannot be introduced because the government wanted to extend a telecommunications tax, but the people see an internet tax. If the people not only dislike something but also consider it unreasonable then it should not be done,” Orban said on Radio Kossuth.

The PM, who has been in power since 2010, had already been forced to backtrack on Monday, when he offered to cap the tax. But he’s still not ready to abandon a scheme to fill Hungary’s coffers "We really should see somehow where the huge profits generated online go, and whether there is a way to keep some of it in Hungary," he said.

The other outcome of the debacle is it seems Hungarians have developed a taste for street marching: there have been calls on social media for another mass gathering at 5pm tonight in Budapest to celebrate the government’s decision. ®

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