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Hungary protesters throw computer parts at government buildings in fight against internet tax

Protesters are spreading across Hungary to fight an internet tax that the government insists on imposing.

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Credit: REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

Three days after urging Prime Minister Viktor Orban to withdraw a proposed tax equal to roughly 60 U.S. cents for every gigabyte uploaded or downloaded in the country, more than 10,000 protesters returned to Budapest and set up similar demonstrations in several cities throughout the country.

The demonstrations began Sunday in response to Orban’s budget proposal for 2015, which included a tax imposed on Internet service providers (ISPs) reportedly based on an older, similar tax on telephone services. Though Orban and the conservative Fidesz political party said the tax money collected would help fund new broadband services in rural parts of the country, protesters argue that the ISPs will only pass the additional cost onto customers.

"The measure would impede equal access to the Internet, deepening the digital divide between Hungary's lower economic groups, and limiting Internet access for cash-poor schools and universities," a press release issued by the Facebook group that organized the protests reads, according to a Reuters report.

A local website claimed the protesters used colorful tactics, from holding their lit smartphone screens in unison to throwing old computer parts at the building and through the windows of the Fidesz headquarters, according to Reuters. By the end of Sunday’s demonstrations, the protesters warned that they would return if the proposal wasn't withdrawn within 48 hours.

On Monday, the Fidesz party responded by amending the proposal by including a monthly cap on the tax equal to roughly $4 for consumers and $20 for ISPs. However, the Hungarian parliament insisted that it would not remove the tax, Bloomberg reported.

Apparently not satisfied with the concession, the protesters returned in force on Tuesday in accordance with demonstrations in Debrecen, Pecs, and Szeged, all of which are large university towns, according to Bloomberg's report.

Even without the tax, internet services are more expensive in Hungary than in most European countries. As the Washington Post pointed out, Hungarians pay an average of $13 per incremental gigabyte, whereas Finland, for example, sees an average of 25 cents.

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