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Op-ed Placement

Pick Your Internet Tax Poison

Originally Published in The Washington Times on 12/20/15.

How’s this for an early Christmas gift?

Right before Congress left town for the holidays, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin the Democratic whip, blew up a bill that would have provided Americans with a permanent ban on the taxation of Internet service. Call it his “bah humbug” moment.

Grinch Durbin has promised to hold this bill hostage unless he gets paid a ransom. He says he will only allow a permanent ban on Internet access taxes, if Congress votes to allow state/local sales taxes on Internet purchases.

It’s a game of pick your poison.

This may seem arcane inside baseball stuff, but the economic stakes here are gigantic as is the future expansion of Internet services. For example, the tax could delay and disrupt the rapid deployment of high speed broadband service. My colleagues at the Heritage Foundation note that Verizon and AT&T spend about $35 billion a year in broadband wiring and cabling, but a new tax could put this investment in jeopardy. Hold on. I thought the Democrats were in favor of “infrastructure” spending.

That the left is threatening to allow states and localities to tax broadband services is toweringly hypocritical. Liberals love to talk piously about the right to universal Internet access and reducing the “digital divide” in America between rich and poor. This has been their excuse for pushing so-called “net neutrality” regulations on Internet providers.