Groups Push for Permanent IFTA

More than 40 organizations have written to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid asking the Senate to pass the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA), which would make permanent a long-standing ban in all but a few states on taxing Internet access service.

The bill has already passed the House--and the Senate Judiciary Committee--and a temporary renewal of the ban has been extended through the end of September, but a Senate version, which was added as a rider on a trade bill, that bill did not pass.

In part that was because some Democrats, particularly in those handful of states whose grandfathered ISP taxes would be phased out, complained of the last-minute maneuver and said the bill should be paired with the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA), which allows for local taxation of online purchases and they suggest could help compensate for the loss of the ISP tax in their states.

Republicans strongly back IFTA, but not so much the MFA.

"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," the letter said. "This would impede our nation’s long held goal of universal Internet access."

The groups included the Multicultural Media, Telecom & Internet Council, the National Association of Black County Officials, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the National Black Chamber of Commerce and others and made the point that ITFA "plays a critical role in helping to keep the cost of

Internet access affordable."

"If we are to make Internet use ubiquitous, then we must have the certainty of a permanent ITFA," MMTC President Kim Keenan said in a statement. "We should accept nothing less than policies that make the Internet affordable for all Americans. This is the only path to digital equality."

A spokesperson for another signatory to the letter said they are afraid that the permanent ITFA will be held hostage to MFA.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.