Glenn Reynolds has suggested something like this before, as have I. And now, I submit, is the time:
Robocalls don’t just annoy you at a gas station or a doctor’s waiting room, places where time spent is usually pretty low quality anyway. They interrupt you at your home, or on your smartphone. The Federal Communications Commission says there are 2.4 billion robocalls a month, and it’s trying to do something. I have a solution of my own: Pay me.
Under my proposal, any incoming calls from people not on my contact list wouldn’t go through unless the caller paid me something. Twenty-five cents would probably be enough to discourage phone spammers, who make huge numbers of (mostly futile) calls. (Though I’d be willing to go higher. Maybe I could charge phone-sex rates: I’d be willing to listen to most anything from anyone for $3.99 plus $1.99 a minute.)
For the sake of simplicity, I would argue for $1. But the point is the same, regardless of the price point:
Of course, hardly anyone would be willing to pay me that much, or even 25 cents, to receive a call. Which is the point. If it’s not worth a quarter for them to call me, why is it worth my time to pick up?
Three decades ago, there was something called MCI Mail. Half a buck would get more-or-less guaranteed email delivery to anyone else on the network in a matter of minutes; for $1.50, they’d actually wrap up a snail-mail copy to anyone not on the network. It was easily worth my $70 a year to keep two mailboxes from MCI, one for myself and one for a 1980s analogue of SwiftOnSecurity. And there was never, ever any spam. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out why.