Net Revenue

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SAN FRANCISCO: If history remembers Bill Clinton as a great president, perhaps it will be for this: That he proudly defended the Internet against the terrors of taxation. Or at least, thatís what the President hoped Thursday when he traveled to the Technology í98 conference in the slippery hills of San Francisco. "We can't allow unfair taxation to ... stunt the development of the most promising new economic opportunity in decades," said Clinton.

Clinton has long suggested the Net be a free-trade zone -- but this is the first time he has needed to fight for his policy. The fledgling e-commerce industry faces a major threat from state governors, whose national association voted Tuesday in favor of local Internet taxes. That would put cybercash transactions at risk from 30,000 separate tax jurisdictions in the U.S. alone, and likely injure -- if not trample on -- the green shoots of Net trade.

The Presidentís not alone on this one; he has the governors of Virginia and California (homes to AOL and Intel), not to mention common sense, in his corner. And as long as most states remain opposed, Clinton gets to do what he relishes most: Crisis management from the bully pulpit.