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A Thought…

Light thinks it travels faster than anything, but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

   — Terry Pratchett

Charge postage on emails

Posted on 2017-Apr-08 at 19:27:24 by Phil

Email spam is still a problem. Even if you’re no longer getting lots of ads for little blue pills, you’re getting communications from businesses that spew out an email to every customer every time some random thought wafts across their minds, fundraisers fishing for donations, and who knows what else. There’s simply too much chatter, and the best way to cure it is to impose postage on emails. Spam emails typically have very low response rates, but since it’s virtually free to send out messages (their hosting service might charge for bandwidth), spamming still pays off. On the other hand, if you have to pay a penny or two for each network packet (the unit of “weight”, maybe a kB or more of useful data), it soon becomes prohibitively expensive to spew out millions of emails. Legitimate businesses and nonprofits will need to become more selective about when they broadcast some trivial piece of news. I see no reason to give discounts for multiple packets (additional “ounces”), and very little call for pricing breaks to nonprofits. Grandma isn’t going to go broke if it costs her the equivalent of one First Class postage stamp to send greetings to all her grandchildren a couple times a month.

Besides discouraging spam and unnecessary mailings, what would be the effect? Well, a lot of money could be collected — cash that could be used to develop, build (lay cable), and maintain the Internet. It could fund expansion and improved access in underserved areas, so that the playing field is leveled. There might even be something left over to help subsidize snail mail!

What might spammers do to evade paying postage? At each step of routing, tabs could be kept on what is owed by network companies, and in turn they would need to charge back down the line all the way to individual users. Anything using email protocols could probably be captured in this way. Would they switch to cell system messaging? Perhaps, but that could be made too expensive even more easily than email (where there is no structure currently in place to collect postage). Spammers generally can’t count on their targets already having regular website connection to the sellers, to pull down ads. Plain old advertising could work, but that already costs real money.

Should anything else have postage (or shipping) charged, even if they are not (currently) being abused (like spam emails)? Things like FTP, and even website access? If emails are akin to snail mail, are bulk data transfers like shipping packages? How much could be charged to completely pay for an updated and well maintained Internet? It should not be seen as a cash cow to subsidize government programs (except possibly snail mail), although the temptation will undoubtedly be great. Does every Linux user need a new kernel every night? Are you really better off streaming your music and videos than listening to the radio and watching a regular TV? Thought needs to be given as to who is currently paying for network use, and whether the costs are fairly distributed, as well as financing modernization and expansion and preventing spam.


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