The following urban legend has been circulating for about 18 months now (usually preceded by every stinking name from your friend's address book in the To: header):
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 l 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.
Our congressional representative, Tony Schnell (R) has even suggested a "$20-$40 per month surcharge on all Internet service" above and beyond the governments proposed E-mail charges. 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 6th, 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 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.
As with so many other urban legends, this one has enough holes to drive an SR-71 through. There is no Bill 602P (House and Senate bills are always preceded by "H" or "S"), no Congressman Schnell, and no proposal. But that won't stop your Great Aunt Matilda, two months into her AOL subscription, from breathlessly passing this to you with a personal note of panic.
Somewhere the originator of this hoax is laughing hysterically, though -- who would have thought that it would be propagated during the 2000 New York Senate race? During their second debate on October 8, 2000, Representative Rick Lazio and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton were asked for their opinion of "Bill 602-P" by debate moderator Marcia Kramer, Chief Investigative/Political Reporter for WCBS-TV (the debate sponsor).
Clinton said she didn't know what it was; when Kramer explained that "under the bill that’s now before Congress, the U.S. Postal Service will bill e-mail users 5 cents for each e-mail they send even though the post office provides no service," Clinton replied, "Based on your description, I wouldn’t vote for that bill."
Lazio went into high dudgeon, saying, "I am absolutely opposed to this. This is an example of the government’s greedy hand in trying to take money from taxpayers that it has no right to."
Kramer moved on to the next question, blissfully unaware that all three of them had been had. As of this writing, WCBS' own story about the debate (at http://www.cbsnewyork.com) doesn't even mention the snafu. That's OK; MSNBC, ABC, and CNN have for some reason found "Hoax Dupes N.Y. Senate Debate" to be an interesting story....