Last Friday, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers re-introduced legislation that would extend permanently provisions of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) that prohibit state and local governments from collecting taxes on Internet access in all but a few grandfathered jurisdictions. That bill was followed by the re-introduction by House Communications
Subcommittee Vice-Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH) of legislation that would block FCC efforts to reclassify broadband Internet access as a common carrier telecommunications service under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act.
Sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and ranking House Communications & Technology Subcommittee member Anna Eshoo (D-CA), the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA) resembles a similar bill that passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate. The IFTA has been extended five times since 1998, and House and Senate lawmakers recently included language in must-pass appropriations legislation that extends the IFTA until October 1 of this year. Applauding that extension as “a necessary measure to avoid expiration of the ban that has protected access to broadband for every American and protected the growth of our digital economy,” Eshoo described the permanent Internet tax ban proposed by the PITFA as “the next crucial step.” Goodlatte agreed, stating “the time has come to make this ban permanent” as “all Americans benefit from tax-free access to the Internet.”
Meanwhile, the Title II blocking bill revives a similar effort undertaken by Latta last May with the support of the cable industry. Introduced in the wake of FCC Chairman Wheeler’s speech at the Consumer Electronics Show last week, the Latta bill would amend the Communications Act to specify that Title II regulations cannot be applied to information services and that broadband Internet access qualifies as an information service. Characterizing the FCC’s proposal to reclassify broadband under Title II as “misguided,” Latta cautioned that “imposing monopoly-era telephone rules on a 21st century industry . . . will undoubtedly impede the economic growth and innovation that has resulted in the broadband marketplace absent government interference.” Latta further maintained that his bill “provides the certainty needed for continued investment in broadband networks that have been fundamental for job creation, productivity and consumer choice.”