The Internet Tax Freedom Act – Ensuring Access for All

During the 1990s, while serving the people of California as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Chris Cox worked alongside Rep. Ron Wyden (D-OR) to create important parts of the legal framework that today undergirds the modern Internet. In its formative years, the Internet was experiencing exponential growth, dramatically improving Americans’ access to information and their opportunities to engage in commerce. One of two landmark laws authored by Rep. Chris Cox and Rep. Ron Wyden that has enabled the continued growth and success of the Internet is the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA), signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1998.

During the past two decades, the ITFA has served to protect the functioning of the Internet and Americans’ ability to benefit from it by outlawing special taxes directed at the Internet. Examples of taxes that the Cox-Wyden legislation bans are any federal, state, or local taxes on Internet access (with some exceptions made for taxes already in existence in 1998), taxes on email, taxes on bandwith usage, and all other Internet-only taxes that do not apply equally in the off-line world. Seeing the successful results of the ITFA, which originally was enacted for three years, the Congress has renewed the law three times. Cox-Wyden was extended first in 2001, and then again in 2004 and 2007. The most recent renewal of ITFA will keep the Internet free of discriminatory taxes until November 1, 2014.

The other landmark piece of Internet legislation authored by Chris Cox and Ron Wyden is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, sometimes dubbed the First Amendment of the Internet. For more on this law, visit the Digital Media Law Project at http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/immunity-online-publishers-under-communications-decency-act

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