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Congress sends permanent Internet tax ban to Obama

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"Americans should not have to worry about something as vital as [Internet] being taxed," Speaker Paul Ryan said. (Graeme Jennings/Washington Examiner)

Legislation permanently banning taxes on Internet services is headed for President Obama's desk.

The Senate voted 75-20 Thursday afternoon to approve a conference bill on customs and border policy that includes the ban, the last step needed before it is signed by the president.

"Americans should not have to worry about something as vital as this being taxed by any government at any level," House Speaker Paul Ryan said at a press conference earlier Thursday. "So now, we are banning taxes on your Internet access for good."

Congress has blocked Internet access taxes on a temporary basis since 1998. The legislation would make that ban permanent.

The ban blocks states from taxing Internet access by taxing bandwidth use or specific digital uses, such as email. It is distinct from proposed, controversial legislation that would allow states to levy taxes on Internet sales to consumers in their states by companies with no presence in that state.

The bill's passage is a victory for Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, who backed the original temporary ban on Internet taxes in 1998 and has attempted since then to make it permanent.

If the bill becomes law, states that implemented Internet taxes before 1998 would have until 2020 to phase them out. Those states are Hawaii, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.