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Senate Passes Bill Making Internet Tax Ban Permanent ( 95

kheldan writes: Nearly two decades ago, Congress passed the first Internet Tax Freedom Act, establishing that — with a handful of grandfathered exceptions — local, state, and federal governments couldn't impose taxes on Internet access. Problem is, that law has had to be renewed over and over, each time with an expiration date. But today, the U.S. Senate finally passed a piece of legislation that would make the tax ban permanent.
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Senate Passes Bill Making Internet Tax Ban Permanent

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  • That's great (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @10:44PM (#51492115)

    Now we get to see what the Republican-controlled House does. Surely they hate taxes too...

    • Why not tax the internet? I can see not taxing it when it was a fledging system but there's no technological or bussiness reason not to tax it. Even amazon is open to this.You can be against taxes but if were going to tax regular stores it makes sense to tax the internet.

      • Various government agencies do collect tax on purchases made using the internet. This is just no tax on the connectivity provided by an ISP.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Because the government doesn't deserve more tax money.

      • by Adriax ( 746043 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @01:20AM (#51492535)

        Tax on the connection, not goods purchased using it.

        If you let them tax the connection you'd quickly get states and cities imposing either per user taxes or a per meg tax based on 1995 average webpage size and traffic statistics.
        If the ban had lapsed, you can bet the first words out of my city mayor's mouth would have been "email postage".

      • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @01:37AM (#51492585)

        Why not tax the internet? I can see not taxing it when it was a fledging system

        The internet connectivity is sometimes taxed through telecommunications taxes, particularly federal ones.

        The ban is on state/city taxation of network access.

        It prohibits things such as providers having to pay a "Franchise tax" for every city, discriminatory taxes, E.g. "LAN Tax per Port", "bit tax", "bandwidth tax", "Tax per E-mail message", "$0.05 per Instant message, Tweet, or Facebook update"

        The Tax Freedom act does not prohibit things such as Sales Tax on real or digital goods, and taxing the providers' profits.... Internet-based transactions are still subject to tax; it's the internet connectivity itself that is protected.

        • by MercTech ( 46455 )

          Because state, county, and local governments are constrained from taxing INTERSTATE commerce. That is the purview of the federal government. The internet is an interstate communications network. Any tax revenue from the internet is accumulated by taxes on the internet service provider's profits.

          We don't want to go there. Not at all. We don't want an internet tax. Implementing something like one mil per gigabyte usage tax would require a nightmarish expensive bureaucratic infrastructure to implement.

      • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

        (note that this is access tax, not tax on sales over the internet)

        It would depend what the tax was for.
        If the tax was similar to that levied on phone lines to help fund the rural build out, then it is completely reasonable.
        if the tax is one meant (or abused) to prevent or discriminate access, then not so much.

    • Re:That's great (Score:4, Informative)

      by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @01:11AM (#51492519) Journal
      The senate is controlled by Republicans, too
    • You do know the GOP controls both the House and the Senate, right?
      • by fnj ( 64210 )

        You do know the GOP controls both the House and the Senate, right?

        For some definition of "control". If you do not have a supermajority, you do not have REAL control in the Senate. The House is not subject to the filibuster; neither the real kind like the one in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, nor the watered-down fake "I-threaten-a-filibuster" kind that are all we see nowadays, but are enough to get the job done.

    • Now we get to see what the Republican-controlled House does. Surely they hate taxes too...

      So lets see now. Before, your in-store purchases provided tax revenue that the state used for roads and infrastructure. Other parts of that tax would cover public housing and some essential services.
      Now, the senators have said, No internet taxes. Does that mean that the state has to raise sales tax, or impose sales taxes on items previously untaxed, such as food? Look to your electric and gas bills to have taxes incremented.
      I believe that the internet tax should be for the destination address of an item. I

  • the US Constitution does that, too.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Here's a link to the definition of the word permanent:

      It's meaning is very specific: "lasting or continuing for a very long time or forever : not temporary or changing." It doesn't mean it can't ever be changed, just that it is not temporary like the previous laws that have an expiration date. It doesn't mean no one can ever change it, ever.

      • I think the idea behind calling it permanent was that it remains law without any further action from congress as opposed to sun setting and needing renewed.

        But yes. I thought the same thing. No law or constitutional provision is permanent in the strict sense because after some arbitrary time in the 1800s, it can all be amended.

    • It won't take an amendment.

      Some states, such as California, impose "use taxes" on items imported from other states. These "use taxes" are exactly the same percentage as sales taxes in those areas, but because they aren't technically taxing the sale, they get away with it under our constitution.

      • It won't take an amendment.

        Some states, such as California, impose "use taxes" on items imported from other states. These "use taxes" are exactly the same percentage as sales taxes in those areas, but because they aren't technically taxing the sale, they get away with it under our constitution.

        Actually court rulings imply that if someone was able to get a lawsuit to the supreme court the court might find that to not actually be legal, because they have found anything even indirectly related to interstate commerce is controlled by Congress. The supreme court has ruled that even growing and using your own stuff falls under interstate commerce because your not buying it elsewhere.[1] If the courts say something like that falls under the commerce clause then I bet they would include something that a

        • by mysidia ( 191772 )

          I bet they would include something that actually seems like it should be.

          You assume their judgement will not be bent by the needs of the states.

          I read from this article [] a little notation, about how some Supreme court justices may want to re-consider the case due to the change in economic climate (regarding internet commerce).

          It sounds a bit legislative to me, But I guess that is the nature of our newly Politicized Supreme court, which can now be viewed a progressive-demo-socialist corrupted insti

          • Yet the governments still manage to pull in taxes proportional to GDP, keeping up with GDP growth (rather than proportional to population, or to a set of well-planned needs, gawrsh how old school I am!)

            So...again to hell with that. No new taxes to start ratcheting up!

  • "Permanent"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mariox19 ( 632969 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @10:59PM (#51492173)

    No Congress can pass a law that a subsequent Congress can't repeal. There is no such thing as "permanent."

    • Sure, but this means they will have to argue, fight, and filibuster if anyone ever wants to change it.
    • Re:"Permanent"? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Lunix Nutcase ( 1092239 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @11:36PM (#51492285)

      "Permanent" in context means that they don't have to keep renewing the law.

      • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

        "Permanent" in context means that they don't have to keep renewing the law.

        Which is kind of a big deal, considering this congress has trouble passing routine legislation, and for all we know the next one could be even worse.

        • What is bothersome to me is we now exist in a state of massive overspending, with tax cuts being only temporary.

          Hooray for this win! A new, additional tax to ratchet up is not, in fact, born!

    • You shouldn't claim snide technicalities based on intentional misunderstanding to make yourself look smarter, unless you know what you're talking about or want to be taken down a notch.

      No Congress can pass a law that a subsequent Congress can't repeal. There is no such thing as "permanent."

      Sure they can. With a two-thirds majority in each house, they could pass a joint resolution for a Constitutional amendment abolishing Congress. Once they do that, it's out of their hands -- they can't repeal it, even if it hasn't yet been ratified by the states. And if ratified, any other laws Congress already passed wouldn't

      • Until the States call a convention and pass an amendment repealing the prior amendment and restoring congress. Even your route is not permanent.
    • I believe the problem here is that there's no word for "not temporary" that incorporates the meaning here but not the usual meaning of the word "Permanent".

      This bill is not temporary, that is, it doesn't have a time limit or expiration date that kicks in if Congress doesn't act.

  • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @11:11PM (#51492209)

    According to TFA, states with existing taxes have four more years to phase them out. Why give some states even one more minute of special taxes that other states aren't allowed to impose?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      States have fiscal commitments, they would raise hell at having a funding stream removed, and would put pressure to bear on their own legislators at the least, possibly more direct action in a judicial forum, and otherwise stink things up.

      Basically, avoiding political infighting by giving your roommate/ex-spouse/former partner time to deal with business before precipitous action.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      I could probably come up with some plausible-sounding reasons, but in practice I'm guessing it's because the lost tax revenue will be the problem of the next people in office and not the current crop.

  • by Tailhook ( 98486 )

    So as you can see reading comprehension is a rare and precious commodity and most of these people think this is about sales taxes....

    Anyhow, I'm ambivalent. If governments could tax internet service they would be more inclined to accommodate providers with right-of-way and other regulatory favors for digital build-outs and upgrades, so service availability might actually improve. On the other hand, I have no trouble imagining states like Illinois just pummeling citizens with stupid high taxes so they ca

    • I have a saying, "You need to know when to read." Reading comprehension doesn't enter the equation until something has been read.
    • As an Illinois resident with a state job and tiny step toward a vested pension, I have to say you're misinformed about the pensions. Workers pay 8% of their own income toward the pensions and do not deposit into nor are eligible for Social Security benefits. The payout is not spectacular unless you were overpaid to begin with.

      Most everything about Illinois corruption is true, but the pensions just aren't one of them.

  • All laws should have one. The entire government should have one. End the careerism

    • All laws should have one.

      Alternatively, the law should be limited to a maximum size. Any new law requires removing an old one that was passed during some time of moral panic and no one cares for any more, for example, in order to create space.

      • Congresswoman Mia Love is trying to do something similar. [] Her bill basically says that bills can only be on one subject and "poison pills" can't be entered (i.e. no gun banning attached to a budget to hold it hostage). It has no chance of actually becoming law, of course, but it's still nice to see.
    • Sounds like a fresh out of college coder.

      It's all a mess and I don't know why any of this cruft is here. Let's rewrite the whole thing with Ruby. We'll worry about bug fixes after the rewrite is done.

  • No Congress can actually make something permanent without a change to the constitution. It should really read "permanent until we change our minds".
  • by spork invasion ( 4443495 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @01:29AM (#51492565)

    Forgive me if this is a stupid question. Lots of jurisdictions impose taxes on cell phone service. Where I live right now does so. I have LTE, in which everything (voice, texts, data) is sent as data. Essentially it's purely an internet connection. If Congress makes it illegal for anyone to tax internet access, wouldn't this also cover wireless services? For previous generations of wireless technology, it could be argued that the portions not sent as data were what was being taxed. That doesn't seem to be the case for LTE where it's all data. Unless there's some specific exemption for wireless services that I'm not aware of, shouldn't this mean that my city imposing a tax for cell phone services on me is illegal under federal law?

    • According to my reading, the law only addresses wired internet connections.
      • The bill the Senate voted on is HR 644, which simply references existing law and indicates that the moratorium on internet taxes is to be made permanent. Here's the text of the existing law []. From reading it, it seems clear that it refers both to wired and wireless internet connections, so I'm interested in where you see otherwise. This is what I see, as it defines internet access:

        (4) Internet.-The term 'Internet' means collectively the myriad of computer and telecommunications facilities, including equipment and operating software, which comprise the interconnected world-wide network of networks that employ the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, or any predecessor or successor protocols to such protocol, to communicate information of all kinds by wire or radio.

        I think the real issue is whether it's still really a telecommunications service, which I think is questionable. The major carrie

    • LTE is a network, not THE Internet. It's a last mile that happens to include Internet data along with voice data.

      You might as well say that Cable TV is becoming all switched digital video now and is thus also Internet. It's not. It may be data, but it's not Internet.

  • The article summary is very misleading -- it reads like sales tax on Internet purchases has been banned, which is not the case. This law deals with the taxation of Internet access.
    • (Don't forget Verizon). But that's just what I was thinking, now they'll all definitely have to be more creative in finding a way to impose more hidden fees, they won't be able to claim it's related to an Internet tax for a long time coming.
      • You think they'll have a hard time finding new ways to charge us more? These are the remnants of Ma Bell; I doubt her playbook was lost.

  • Hey Whiplash,

    You and the new management team seem to be doing right by the community so far. Article quality has improved on Slashdot, and you guys announced the end of that stupid affiliate program that SourceForge had.

    I clicked on the link to this Slashdot story after seeing the title in my RSS feed. Since I was already familiar with the bill, I waited for the tab to load thinking "I bet Slashdot is going to be all gung ho for sales taxes on e-commerce purchases, despite the fact that the bill deals wi

  • So broadband universal service will be subsidized by landline and cell users.

Beware of Programmers who carry screwdrivers. -- Leonard Brandwein