Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee took to the Senate floor Thursday to call for passage of the Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act. Cosponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and introduced last August, the bill would make permanent the moratorium on Internet access taxes passed back in 1998.
It would also remove the grandfather clause that has allowed six states, including his home state, to tax Internet access. The bill has 46 cosponsors.
That moratorium prevents state and local governments from levying taxes on Internet access. It has been extended three times already, Thune pointed out.
Cash-strapped states and local governments are always looking for new revenue sources, but the bill would make sure that would not include taxes on access to the Internet. That would make sense given that the government has made a priority of promoting Internet access and adoption and keeping the cost down.
Thune extolled the virtues and power that is almost taken for granted. "But we can't take for granted that the moratorium on Internet access taxes has contributed to the Internet now being accessed by hundreds of millions of Americans every day."
Thune, who is cochair of the Congressional Internet Caucus, pointed out they are talking a lot these days about how to spur broadband adoption (as is the FCC and the White House) and promote the Internet as an engine of growth. One of the ways to do that is making broadband more affordable, he said, and one of the ways to do that is a tax-free net. He points out that the bill would also prevent multiple, discriminatory taxes by different states on the same sale.
He said many ISPs are beginning to warn customers they may have to assess an Internet tax if Congress fails to act.
Thune said passing extensions year after year was a waste of time. The bill is not slated for Senate action, but Thune said the Senate should take it up after it returns from the Memorial Day break, to "make sure that Americans don't wake up on Nov. 2 with new, unexpected taxes."
The Internet Tax Freedom Act is currently scheduled to expire Nov. 1, 2014, so this new bill would make that deadline moot.