If Congress allows a temporary moratorium on cities and states taxing Internet access to expire in October, a bill introduced by Washington state Rep. Gina McCabe (R-Goldendale) would help keep Washingtonians’ Internet bills low by banning access taxes in the state.
McCabe says the expiration of the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA), a moratorium on local and state Internet access taxes and other Internet-only taxes, would put many small business owners out of business.
“There are a lot empty storefronts throughout Washington State, and we’re really trying to help those businesses stay in business,” McCabe said. “I want to promote new businesses. I want to make sure we do everything we can to help them stay in business or grow, and the environment for that is really tough in Washington State, and this new tax would make it much harder.”
McCabe says increased Internet availability leads to economic growth for people at all income levels.
“I own a hotel, and it’s interesting to see the amount of people that park outside my hotel and use the Internet, and it’s the same in libraries,” McCabe said. “I don’t mind, and I’ll give them a password, because most of them are looking for jobs, they’re looking for coupons, they’re booking doctor appointments, and some are even going to school online.
“If they can’t afford the Internet, it really isolates them, and this tax is going to make it even harder,” McCabe said.
Carrying ‘the Highest Burden’
Paul Guppy of the Washington Policy Center says McCabe’s bill protects the state’s most vulnerable residents from excess taxation.
“In the 21st century, the Internet is going to be like electricity was in the 20th century: a basic thing that everybody’s going to have to access to,” Guppy said. “So, we think it’s not fair to impose a barrier … that would fall hardest on low-income people … people who are sort of left out of the information economy. They would carry the highest burden.”
Track Record of Success
Since its passage in 1998, federal lawmakers have renewed ITFA four times. Guppy says over the past 17 years, ITFA has a track record of economic success.
“From the dawn of the Internet era until today, this exemption policy has been working fine,” Guppy said. “We would make an argument from experience that if something is working, keep doing it. The government is not suffering because they can’t impose a new fee on the internet.”
Amelia Hamilton ([email protected]) writes from Traverse City, Michigan.