Two days before Snowzilla descended upon the mid-Atlantic and crippled Washington, D.C., a diverse coalition of 45 organizations implored Senate leadership to take immediate action in passing the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA).
In a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid, the coalition members, who often diverge on substantive policy debates, proclaimed that “numerous studies continue to show that cost remains an obstacle to Internet access and, if taxes on the Internet go up, even fewer people will be able to afford to go online. This would impede our nation’s long held goal of universal Internet access.”
ITFA was first signed into law 17 years ago and has been reauthorized every year since. The communications landscape has changed dramatically since 1998, however, and today “the Internet has evolved from a luxury into a necessity of modern life,” says the group.
According to the coalition, whether we’re talking about healthcare, education, small businesses or large Fortune 500 companies, ITFA helped spark the Internet revolution. “In particular, ITFA plays a critical role in helping to keep the cost of Internet access affordable. It has protected most consumers from paying state and local taxes on their Internet access services.” Further, “without ITFA, it is likely these services would be taxed at the high rates of tax imposed on traditional telecommunication services, which often are more than double the rate of tax imposed on other goods and services.”
Last winter, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a permanent Internet access tax ban, but the Senate only approved an extension, which expires later this year.