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EMAIL: Threat from the US Government

James Whelan writes: " VOTE NO ON Bill 602P!!!! I guess the warnings were true. Federal Bill 602P 5-cents per E-mail sent. It figures! No more free E-mail! We knew this was coming!! Bill 602P will permit the Federal Government to charge a 5-cent charge on every delivered E-mail.

Please read the following carefully if you intend to stay online, and continue using E-mail. The last few months have revealed an alarming trend in the Government of the United States attempting to quietly push through legislation that will affect our use of the Internet. Under proposed legislation, the US Postal Service will be attempting to bill E-mail users out of "alternative postage fees".

Bill 602P will permit the Federal Government to charge a 5-cent surcharge on every E-Mail delivered, by billing Internet Service Providers at source. The consumer would then be billed in turn by the ISP. Washington DC lawyer Richard Stepp is working without pay to prevent this legislation from becoming law. The US Postal Service is claiming lost revenue, due to the proliferation of E-mail, is costing nearly $230,000,000 in revenue per year. You may have noticed their recent ad campaign: "There is nothing like a letter." Since the average person received about 10 pieces of E- mail per day in 1998, the cost of the typical individual would be an additional 50 cents a day - or over $180 per year - above and beyond their regular Internet costs.

Note that this would be money paid directly to the US Postal Service for a service they do not even provide. The whole point of the Internet is democracy and noninterference. You are already paying an exorbitant price for snail mail because of bureaucratic efficiency. It currently takes up to 6 days for a letter to be delivered from coast to coast. If the US Postal Service is allowed to tinker with E-mail, it will mark the end of the "free" Internet in the United States.

Note that most of the major newspapers have ignored the story -the only exception being the Washingtonian - which called the idea of E-mail surcharge "a useful concept who's time has come" (March 6, 1999 Editorial).

Do not sit by and watch your freedom erode away! Send this to E-mail to EVERYONE on your list, and tell all your friends and relatives to write their congressional representative and say "NO" to Bill 602P. It will only take a few moments of your time and could very well be instrumental in killing a bill we do not want. Please forward".

My comment: I read about this legislation and could not believe it meant what James Whelan says. Apparently it does, so his protest is amply justified. I would like to know the world-wide situation,. Some people ask me not to e-mail them while they are abroad because it is so expensive. Apparently some governments charge a fee on received airmail, and presumably also on e-mail sent. I have tried to find out which countries charge what, but without success. I would be grateful for any information WAISers can send me.

Post offices should stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just like Safeway and Kinkos. They could be established next to police stations, and thus serve to warn against night-time theft.

Ronald Hilton - 9/02/00