Rejecting Republican calls for a permanent ban on Internet connection taxes, the House Judiciary Committee Oct. 10 voted to extend the current temporary moratorium—set to expire Nov. 1—for another four years.
The nine-year-old Internet Tax Fairness Act of 1998 bars state and local governments from taxing broadband connections and imposing other levies and fees that treat Internet commerce differently than brick-and-mortar businesses.
Congress renewed the moratorium in 2001 for two years and again in 2004 for three years. In 2004, the House approved a permanent ban on connection taxes, but opposition from state and local governments killed the initiative in the Senate. Ultimately, Congress agreed on the current three-year extension.
"Overall, this is a good, strong and necessary bill that will provide much needed clarity to the communications and Internet industries, while addressing the needs of the states and local governments, all while helping to keep Internet access affordable," said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
But Republicans on the panel pushed Conyers to make the ban permanent, noting that many House Democrats now supporting a temporary extension voted to permanently ban connection taxes in 2004.
"I believe the will of the House is clear—a strong, bipartisan majority of members want a permanent ban on these burdensome taxes," Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the actions of the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee do not reflect the Congress commitment to ensuring the Internet is free from excessive taxation and regulation."
In a series of procedural maneuvers, Judiciary Committee Democrats defeated an amendment calling for a permanent ban. Goodlatte managed to swing a winning vote for an eight-year extension that was later rejected through a parliamentary move by Conyers.
"The procedural tactics of the Committee Democrats are simply unacceptable," Goodlatte said. "I continue to urge the House leadership to bring to the floor a permanent ban, so that the Internet will continue to thrive and so that access to the Internet does not become limited to wealthy Americans in urban areas."
The Senate is also debating whether the ban should be permanent or temporary, with Democrats pushing for another temporary extension.
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