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Should Internet access be subject to similar access charges assessed long distance calls? This perennial question is gaining critical mass as new technologies, new services, and new users go online. While there is evidence that the current system is not sustainable in the long-term, there is a short-term interest in maintaining the exemption.
Internet policies (or policies impacting the underlying infrastructure of the Internet) should be evaluated on three criteria: How will the policy affect online users and usage?; How will the policy impact the ability of online "Internet Industries" and services to develop and grow?; and How will the policy affect the overall economy that increasingly relies heavily on the Internet for growth?
The ISP exemption from "Internet usage charges" has nurtured the growth of the Internet, creating widespread social and economic benefits. Clearly, the ISP exemption has been a major spur to the proliferation of Internet users. The United States has one of the highest Internet penetration rates in the world, due in large part to the ISP exemption that keeps access costs low. Removing the exemption may deter hundreds of thousands of middle and low income households from getting online. Moreover, the current exemption will continue to pay dividends in the future by helping to foster infant industries on the Internet and to assure fair and equal access across racial and socioeconomic lines. As the economic analysis shows, this expansion would be highly beneficial for job growth and the economy at large.