US legislators push for global 'net tax ban

US lawmakers said yesterday that they intend to propose that the Clinton administration support a permanent moratorium on global Internet tariffs related to e-commerce when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meets next month in Seattle.

At a Washington, D.C., press conference yesterday morning, US House of Representatives Policy Chairman Christopher Cox, a California Republican; Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat; and Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said that they will call on the administration to support the global 'Net tax moratorium, according to Cox's office. They also plan to introduce legislation supporting the permanent moratorium on Internet tariffs.

The legislation will urge the US to work with other nations for a ban on "multiple, discriminatory and special Internet taxes," said a written statement from Cox. The bill also will reject the United Nations suggestion for a "bit tax" that encourages governments to tax Internet data transmission.

In May of 1998, the WTO approved a one-year global moratorium on Internet tariffs, but said it intended to study the issue. According to Cox's statement, some who support a permanent global Internet tax ban have been discouraged by a lack of action by US President Bill Clinton's administration since Internet Czar Ira Magaziner left that job.

Cox and Wyden successfully championed the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which was signed into law by Clinton in October of 1998 and established a three-year US ban on Internet taxes at federal, state and local levels. The law further set up a national commission to study issues related to Internet taxation.

The two lawmakers also pushed through Congress the Internet Freedom and Family Empowerment Act, which overturned case law that made Internet access providers legally liable for content that crossed their networks as long as the providers tried to protect children from objectionable material.

Because the bill related to international Internet taxation is the third from Cox and Wyden regarding the 'Net, it is being referred to as Cox-Wyden III.

Additional information regarding the bill can be found at http://cox.house.gov or at http://policy.house.gov, which contains a previous policy statement about global Internet taxation authored by Cox.

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