Congress has voted to make permanent a federal law that prevents states or localities from taxing Internet access.
The US Senate accepted the measure as part of a larger trade bill, which passed today on a 75-20 vote. Since the House has already passed a similar measure, the bill now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature.
There’s long been general agreement in Congress that taxing access to the Internet is a bad idea and shouldn’t be allowed. But permanent consideration of the tax ban was held up by some lawmakers, including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who wanted it to be passed together with the Marketplace Fairness Act, or MFA.
The MFA mandates that Americans must pay sales tax on all online purchases. It, too, has garnered majorities on both sides of the aisle, and a version was passed by the Senate in 2013—yet, it still hasn’t become law. Durbin reportedly dropped his opposition to the access tax once Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised a vote on a new MFA later this year.
Durbin’s home state of Illinois is one of seven states that currently do tax Internet access, because their taxes were grandfathered in when the original tax ban was passed in 1998. The permanent ban passed today will sunset those taxes by 2020, which Durbin claims will cost his state as much as $390 million annually.