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AOL Claims And Reality
The reality: 5:21am, PST, AOL is "unable to send mail" at this time. "Please try again later." Great...thanks. Which brings me to an email I got, entitled "AOL CLAIMS AND REALITY":

CLAIM: Nothing would change for non-paying email senders. This is just an extra service for paying senders.

FACT: AOL currently has a financial incentive to put top-notch maintenance into their free email system and make sure legitimate emails don't wind up in spam filters. This helps everyone--corporate senders, non-profit senders, and regular senders. The moment AOL switches to a world where giant emailers pay for preferential treatment, AOL faces this internal choice: spend money to keep spam filters up-to-date so legitimate email isn't identified as spam, or make money by neglecting their spam filters and pushing more senders to pay for guaranteed delivery. Despite their denials that things will change for regular email senders, which choice do you think they'll choose?

CLAIM: Charging a fee will help deter spammers.

FACT: AOL hasn't officially made this claim, but they've let it be implied in news articles and it's completely untrue. AOL's "email tax" would not prevent giant senders from sending email, especially since many of these same senders are willing to pay a lot more money to send advertisements through the postal service. AOL's pay-to-send system would actually make it a sweeter deal for them to send masss emails - giving guaranteed delivery to people's inboxes with a preferential high-priority designation. Additionally, those who break the rules and spam recklessly right now have no incentive to reduce spamming because of AOL's proposed policy.

CLAIM: This is not an "email tax."

FACT: If AOL has its way, the only way to guarantee mail is being delivered will be to pay. For email senders, it amounts to an email tax--except the money goes to AOL instead of the government.

CLAIM: This MoveOn email is a hoax, we will not charge email senders.

It most definitely is not a hoax, and the charge to email senders has been publicly announced in the New York Times, the Associated Press, and other media outlets.

"Postage is due for companies sending e-mail," New York Times, February 4,
2006
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=1453

"Yahoo and AOL to Charge Some E-Mail Senders," Associated Press, February 6,
2006
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=1466


HERE'S A SAMPLE MESSAGE TO SEND TO YOUR FRIENDS:

Subject: Stop AOL's email scheme

Hi,

I just signed an important online petition because the very existence of online civic participation and the free Internet as we know it are under attack by America Online, and we need to fight back quickly.

The petition's at:

http://civic.moveon.org/emailtax/

AOL recently announced what amounts to an "email tax." Under this pay-to-send system, large emailers willing to pay an "email tax" can bypass spam filters and get guaranteed access to people's inboxes--with their messages having a preferential high-priority designation.

Charities, small businesses, civic organizing groups, and even families with mailing lists will inevitably be left with inferior Internet service unless they are willing to pay the "email tax" to AOL.

The petition says: "AOL, don't auction off preferential access to people's inboxes to giant emailers, while leaving people's friends, families, and favorite causes wondering if their emails are being delivered at all. The Internet is a force for democracy and economic innovation only because it is open to all Internet users equally--we must not let it become an unlevel playing field."

AOL's proposed pay-to-send system is the first step down the slippery slope toward dividing the Internet into two classes of users--those who get preferential treatment and those who are left behind. We must preserve the Internet for everybody.

Can you sign this emergency petition to America Online?

http://civic.moveon.org/emailtax/

Thanks!

And no, don't waste your finger energy typing. I generally like AOL -- except for this. Been on since the early 90s. But, I will seriously consider dumping it if this goes through. For the reasons above.

Posted by aalkon at February 24, 2006 5:46 AM

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Comments

I didn't follow all the links, but...

If you charge people for it, it's no longer common email. The present system was just not designed for privacy, efficiency, or commerce, and there's not much to be done.

But here's a dream scheme: Emails cost the sender a penny apiece IF THE RECIPIENT DOESN'T WANT IT, and he gets to read it before deciding.

Benefits:

- By inflicting ANY cost on spammers, they're essentially out of business.

- If you piss off your girlfriend and she decides she's not talking to you, you're still not gonna go broke.

- If you sign up for a newsletter or mailing list, you pay them one cent up front so that if you cancel without warning they don't lose anything.

Downside:

- It probably can't be done technically.

Posted by: Crid at February 24, 2006 2:54 PM

Hey there Big S(p)ender,

'nothing will change for non-paying senders'

I'm afraid this is true, the only non-paying email senders are hackers. College kids parent's pay tuition so they can send 'free' email. Kinkos charges an arm an hour, and my home connection costs $80/ month (bundled with 100+ channels of home shopping TV and sports, yuck). I suspect my ISP will not stand for complaints of undelivered mail and will pay the tax on my behalf. I'm already jaded enough from paying 80 a month, so I'll probably pay 90.

I just love how AOH spins this to be about spam and helping the consumer. Charging for delivery has done little to decrease the crap in my snail mail box.

All that said, I still cannot bring myself to sign an online petition.

Yeah, they've got America online alright, hook Line, and sinker.

Posted by: Steve at February 24, 2006 4:48 PM

In other words, spammers will be able to pay to bypass AOL's spam filters. No matter how they try to spin it, that's what it will mean. The answer is to vote with our wallets, as I did years ago. AOL was my first ISP, back when AOL's policy was to deny that it really _was_ an ISP. After reading a few hundred exhortations to "Get a real ISP!", I did. Wow! Newsgroups and Web sites I never knew existed, and no, they weren't all porn. I never knew just how crappy AOL's browser and newsreader were until I used Opera and Agent.

I wonder how long that email tax will last once people start setting their own filters to route anything from an AOL address to the bit-bucket? There are plenty of free Web-based email servers out there, so even people who want (why?) to stick with AOL don't have to use an AOL email address.

Posted by: Steve Rush at February 24, 2006 7:02 PM

You have many friends that post in your guestbook - it is cool!

Posted by: Roberto at March 14, 2006 8:31 AM

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