- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The House yesterday unanimously passed a proposal for a seven-year extension of the moratorium of state and local taxes on Internet access, despite bipartisan support on Capitol Hill and by the White House for a permanent ban.

President Bush is expected to sign the bill before the current ban expires tomorrow.

“The seven-year extension represents the longest extension for this moratorium,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. “I urge the president to sign the bill immediately so Americans will not face a toll road when they get on the information superhighway.”

The House earlier this month passed a four-year Internet tax ban. But the Senate amended the bill to seven years because of concern over the long-term effects a permanent ban could have on state and local governments.

“The Internet is an ever-changing entity, and this bill will ensure that Congress revisits the moratorium to review any unintended consequences for consumers, industry or the states,” said Raymond C. Scheppach, executive director of the National Governors Association.

Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, California Democrat and one of two House members who voted against a four-year tax moratorium extension Oct. 16, said she is pleased with the seven-year ban.

“I knew we could do better, and today we did,” she said.

House and Senate Republican leaders say they will continue to work for a permanent Internet tax ban.

“It should not be overlooked that a vast majority of House members support legislation to permanently ban Internet taxes — the same sort of ban the Republican-led House has advanced in years past,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican. “The majority leadership’s refusal to even bring this ban up for a vote is telling.”

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said that while he doesn’t oppose a permanent ban, the seven-year ban is a fair compromise.

“You can argue it either way,” the Maryland Democrat said. “Nobody has intentions to tax the Internet.”

The tax ban was first passed by Congress in 1998 and has been extended twice, most recently in 2004. The bill exempts a handful of states that approved taxes before the enactment of the original moratorium.

Internet-service providers, who say the price of Internet access could increase by as much as 17 percent if the moratorium was allowed to expire, applauded the House vote.

“Broadband access is now a crucial driver of America’s economy, and this moratorium extension will ensure continued investment and growth in the broadband marketplace,” said Peter Davidson, Verizon senior vice president of federal government relations. “This is good for consumers and businesses across the country.”

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