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Senate votes to permanently ban taxing anyone for going online

Running in line with some people’s thinking that Internet access should be a basic right, the U.S. Senate has voted to ban taxes levied on Internet access from ever being enacted. Known as the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, it replaces and extends an already existing 18-year ban on Internet-related taxes that came to an end in October last year.

Although Internet access is a major component of the legislation, it also covers other aspects of the Internet. It prevents, for example, anyone from levying taxes that could target Internet-based services which are not otherwise available.

Several organizations have praised the legislation, with the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste in particular voicing its approval. It called it a “taxpayer victory,” suggesting that it would help prevent overbearing charges placed unfairly on consumers (as per PCWorld).

Related: FCC votes to use cell phone taxes to help the poor access broadband Internet

What’s perhaps surprising about this bill though, is that it was not a new idea. Instead it enshrined a near two-decade moratorium on zero percent taxes for Internet access and services, enacted through a series of short-term measures. These measures date as far back as 1998, when the Internet Tax Freedom Act was enacted to prevent anyone from taxing Internet access, in order to protect its commercial and social growth.

Imagine if that law had never been passed, what a different Internet we might have today.

Fortunately legislators at the time were forward thinking enough to pass that law, but it was never given permanent legislative status. Instead, every few years it was extended by another small margin, but that will no longer need to happen, now that it has been given the go-ahead to become a permanent part of the law books.

All that’s needed at this point is for President Obama to sign it into law. Something tells us he won’t put up much of a fight.