Internet Access Tax Ban Reintroduced in Senate

Tod Hunter
WASHINGTON — A bill that would renew the ban on taxes on Internet access that is set to expire Nov. 1 has been reintroduced in the Senate by Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H. The bill is identical to a bill Sununu introduced in January.

If the tax ban is not extended, state and local governments will be able to tax Internet access, including DSL, cable modem and Blackberry-type wireless transmission services.

Sununu filed this bill under the Senate's Rule 14, which makes the bill eligible for immediate consideration on the Senate floor instead of passing through subcommittee and committee votes.

In late September, a bill that would have extended the ban for four more years was removed from consideration by the Senate Commerce Committee by committee chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii.

The day after the bill was removed from consideration a statement from the committee said "further negotiations were warranted," but no vote has been scheduled. The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee is considering similar legislation, which is scheduled for discussion by the committee today.

Sununu said he reintroduced his bill under Rule 14 because he believes enacting legislation to make the Internet tax ban permanent is so important that there's a need to "keep every door open."

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sens. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and John McCain, R-Ariz., joined Sununu in introducing the bill, but another original cosponsor — Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who authored the first Internet tax ban in 1998 — did not. His office didn't respond immediately to reporters' requests for an explanation.

State officials and Internet and broadband companies still disagree over whether Internet access taxes should be banned permanently, and reports indicate that it seems likely that a limited-time extension will be passed and the question will be revisited again in a few years.