The importance of keeping the internet tax-free
A tax-free Internet has been an American reality since 1998 thanks to the Internet Tax Freedom Act, when a bill was passed that kept all web users protected from taxes in their Web surfing. The bill has been renewed in 2001, 2004 and most recently by President George H.W. Bush in 2007, with a moratorium that extended the legislation through November 1, 2014. Seven years and nearly a full presidency later, the state of the internet is a little less certain – with international internet freedom and American net neutrality being constantly called into question by the government and the media alike, there's more significant pressure on the U.S. Congress to take action on renewing the bill.
A time-sensitive move for American legislators
As Forbes contributor Kelly Phillips Erb pointed out in a recent piece, November may seem like a lot of time for a resolution to be found, but this is dependent on when Congress is actually in session. The legislative branch is notorious for putting court in recess for extended periods of time when there are pressing bills to be dealt with, and plan to go on a five-week summer recess throughout August and into the beginning of September – the public will rest easier if the Internet Tax Freedom Act is dealt with before this long waiting period. The gist of the law has always been the same, according to Erb, and essentially states that the Internet as an entity should remain free from taxation, excluding ecommerce.
"The law did not – and does not – apply to sales tax on the internet," Erb clarified in the article. "That's a whole other issue that Congress hasn't been able to sort through. But Congress was able to agree on this one point (and a few related points) and pushed through the moratorium on the taxation of internet access [in 2007.]"
As Web continues to expand, Internet Tax Freedom Act grows in importance
As time passes, the importance of the act grows simple due to the number of Americans using the Internet today. According to a study from Internet World Stats, the Web has experienced an annual increase since 1995, with over 80 percent of the country now regular users in either a desktop, tablet or mobile capacity. However, there is a bright side for Congress is they allow the Internet Tax Freedom Act to expire – neglecting to tax this increasingly ubiquitous resource may strike them as ignoring a clear, reliable source of income that could help resolve the national debt, which has now reached over 17 billion dollars. Political blog Roll Call argued these positive potential benefits from placing a tax on the Web would not be worth the public outrage and backpedaling in progress it would result in.
"Studies have found that Internet taxes could reverse the gains in rural and low-income web access made by the massive investments government and the private sector have made in connecting these communities, and that the U.S. could lose 30 million mobile broadband customers if the tax moratorium expires," writer Erik Telford explained. "That figure represents 30 million individuals and businesses who would be priced out of an increasingly essential service, hampering our ability to connect with and learn from one another, and making it more difficult for small businesses to compete."
With so many national and international Internet conflicts currently in progress, the public is hopeful that the Internet Tax Freedom Act will be renewed by Congress and count as a win for the American public. With more legislation regarding pricing Web access with the Internet Service Providers' lobbying for a "fast lane" following court recess this summer, this would certainly be the first of many battles citizens will wage over their access to an increasingly necessary resource.