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Congress passes bill banning Internet access tax

[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] on Thursday approved [vote count] legislation that will place a permanent ban on states taxing Internet access. The Senate, by a vote of 75-20, passed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 [materials]. Although the main provisions of the bill will strengthen enforcement of US duties on foreign goods, the bill also includes an extra provision known as the Internet Tax Freedom Act. The provision will also implement some taxes on digital goods and services. The vote was lauded by many, including the Internet Tax Freedom Act Coalition [advocacy website], which stated [press release], "[t]his legislation ensures, once and for all, that hundreds of millions of consumers, students, families and businesses across the country will never have to pay onerous taxes to use the Internet." Supporters of the legislation are pushing for Congress to take the next step and improve enforcement of state sales tax collections related to Internet purchases, which this bill does not address.

Rights of Internet users, including net neutrality [JURIST backgrounder], have emerged as a major political and legal issue in the US and internationally. In April US Congressman Doug Collins introduced a resolution [JURIST report] to block net neutrality rules [JURIST report] that were introduced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last February. Also last February the FCC adopted Open Internet rules [JURIST report] by a 3-2 vote. The Open Internet Order reclassifies broadband Internet as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act, bringing broadband providers within the authority of the FCC. In 2014 Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced [JURIST report] that the proposed law on Internet tax would not be introduced in its current form. The tax was originally set to be 150 forints (USD $0.62) per gigabyte of Internet traffic but would be capped at 700 forints per month. The law also received harsh criticism from telecommunication firms and Internet companies that claimed it would reduce the country's competitiveness.

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