The Internet is the highway to cyberspace. Its use has become essential to the nation and the world.
It is wrong for government to reduce or prohibit access to the Internet by taxing its use. Doing so reduces the people’s access to information and gives governments power to dictate who can and can’t use the Internet.
The U.S. House this week wisely took action to end state and local Internet taxes that have been imposed. And, more importantly, to make permanent a moratorium that prevents state and local governments from taxing access to the Internet.
The legislation now goes to the Senate, which should approve it as soon as possible.
Now, to be clear, government taxation is far different from fees charged by companies or individuals to access their specific websites. Companies (such as the Union-Bulletin) and individuals set up paywalls or sell subscriptions to websites to gain full access because they want to market their content or products.
The specific websites they own and operate are like stores where merchandise is purchased, and the Internet is essentially the street or sidewalk that provides access to the store.
Congress previously established a temporary moratorium, which is set to expire Nov. 1. It also grandfathered access taxes that had already been imposed by local jurisdictions in seven states — Hawaii, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.
“This legislation prevents a surprise tax hike on Americans’ critical services this fall,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., “It also maintains unfettered access to one of the unique gateways to knowledge and engine of self-improvement in all of human history.”
Several Democrats, however, opposed the moratorium as well as not allowing the Internet tax to continue in places where it is in place. The Congressional Budget Office estimates these jurisdictions, taken together, will lose “several hundred million dollars annually” without the tax.
The Democrats’ concern is that these cities and states now taxing access can’t afford to lose the revenue. However, they can find something else to tax or cut spending.
This isn’t about government revenue, it’s about freedom from government oversight and unreasonable restrictions to access information.
And, in a way, it would also be like restricting the ability to move freely from place to place.
Access to the Internet and cyberspace should not be taxed or restricted by government.