US House Moves to Ban Internet Access Taxes

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Internet access taxes may be permanently banned in the US after the House of Representatives passed the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act on Tuesday. The bill, H.R. 3086, was passed with bipartisan support and cosponsors from both parties, though some democrats voted against it.

The bill would extend a temporary ban which has been extended three times, and will now go before the Senate for approval by the upper house. The temporary ban expires Nov. 1, 2014.

Internet sales tax is not included in the bill, but has already been approved by the Senate in the form of the Marketplace Fairness Act.

Seven states currently collect tax on internet access because their laws predating the temporary ban were exempted with a grandfather clause. Michigan Democrat John Conyers Jr. said eliminating that tax will cost states revenue, including $350 million a year for Texas.

Proponents of the ban argued that taxing internet access could harm democracy, while potentially increasing the cost of access to citizens.  Opponents said the bill treats the internet as it was when the temporary ban was originally enacted in 1998.

“The bill ignores the fundamental nature of the Internet,” PCWorld quoted Conyers as saying. “The act was intended as a temporary measure to assist and nurture the fledgling Internet that back in 1998 was still in its commercial infancy. Yet, this bill is oblivious to the significantly changed environment of today’s Internet.”

Despite being passed by Congress, the independent government transparency site gives the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act only a 42 percent chance of being enacted.

The House of Representatives in June passed an amendment to the 2015 Defense appropriations bill to rein in warrantless searches for U.S. citizen’s data.

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