Most of my email these days is fairly nondescript — come-ons from scammers, Outbid Notices from eBay, pictures from parties I didn't attend — so I suppose I should be grateful I didn't get hit with this:

Dear Internet Subscriber: 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 your use of the Internet. Under proposed legislation (Bill 602P) the U.S. Postal service will be attempting to bilk email users out of "alternative postage fees". Bill 602P will permit the Federal Govt. to charge 5 cents surcharge on every email delivered, by billing Internet Service Providers at source. The consumer would then be billed inturn by the ISP. Washington D.C. lawyer Richard Stepp is working without pay to prevent this legislation from becoming law. The U.S. Postal Service is claiming that lost revenue due to the proliferation of email is costing nearly $230,000,000 in revenue per year. You may have noticed the recent ad campaign "There is nothing like a letter". Since the average citizen received about 10 pieces of email per day in 1998, the cost to the typical individual would be an additional 50 cents per day, or over $180 per year, above and beyond their regular Internet costs. Note that this would be money paid directly to the U.S. Postal Service for a service they do not even provide. The whole point of the Internet is democracy and non-interference. If the Federal Govt. is permitted to tamper with our liberties by adding a surcharge to e-mail, who knows where it will end. You are already paying an exorbitant price for snail mail because of bureaucratic inefficiency. It currently takes up to 6 days for a letter to be delivered from New York to Buffalo. If the U.S. Postal Service is allowed to tinker with email, it will mark the end of the 'free' Internet in the United States. One congressman, Tony Schnell (R) has even suggested a "twenty to forty dollar per month surcharge on all Internet service" above and beyond the government's proposed email charges. Note that most of the major newspapers have ignored the story, the only exception being the Washingtonian which called the idea of email surcharge "a useful concept whose time has come" (March 6th 1999 Editorial)
Don't sit by and watch your freedoms erode away! Send this email to all Americans on your list and tell your friends and relatives to write their congressman and say "No!" to Bill 602P.

This is signed by "Kate Turner, assistant to Richard Stepp, Berger, Stepp and Gorman, Attorneys at Law, 216 Concorde Street, Vienna, VA." No doubt Mr Stepp is wondering what other activities of his office are being spread all over the Net — if, in fact, his office exists. Not much else in this letter does. Anyone who's paid the slightest attention to legislative activities in the United States, or who has used the search function at Thomas even once, knows that "602P" is not the sort of number affixed to bills introduced into the Congress, even by fictional characters like "Tony Schnell" (R). As for the Washingtonian, they didn't publish an issue on March 6, 1999.

In short, this is a crock, and if you passed it on to someone else, shame on you. And if you're Robin Maxey, managing editor of The Sunday Sun, Midwest City, Oklahoma, who complained bitterly today about the Postal Service's multiple failings, culminating with a broadside against 602P, congratulations — you just cost your newspaper a subscriber.

The Vent

#160
8 August 1999

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 Copyright © 1999 by Charles G. Hill