Earlier this week, news began to leak about two email providers' plans to charge companies the electronic equivalent of a postage stamp to deliver their email.
America Online (AOL) and Yahoo are both "about to start using a system that gives preferential treatment to messages from companies that pay from 1/4 of a cent to a penny each to have them delivered." (NY Times)
The proposed change does not apply to ordinary email exchanges. The new system will create another class of email by which businesses that send massive numbers of emails can pay to "raise" their profile so that their messages go directly to your in-box and bypass the spam filter.
According to the New York Times, "AOL and Yahoo will still accept email from senders who have not paid, but the paid messages will be given special treatment."
AOL is trying to put a customer-friendly spin on the proposed change. "'The last time I checked, the postal service has a very similar system to provide different options,' said Nicholas Graham, an AOL spokesman. He pointed to services like certified mail, 'where you really do get assurance that if what you send is important to you, it will be delivered, and delivered in a way that is different from other mail.'" (NY Times)
Of course, AOL skims over the fact that this new deal will net it and Yahoo millions.
AOL and Yahoo have both signed agreements with Goodmail Systems, an email certification specialist. According to Internet News, "[e]very message that is sent through the Goodmail Certified Email service is embedded with a cryptographically secure token. These tokens must be detected by participating service providers before the message can be delivered to a recipient's inbox identified as a Certified Email message."
Goodmail charges between 1/4 and one cent per message depending upon the volume of messages a business is sending. Goodmail then gives more than half the amount collected back to the email provider (AOL or Yahoo). They also claim that they are only delivering mail to recipients who have a relationship with the business in question.
As I understand it, this isn't quite a done deal. And the reason why is something every Internet user needs to pay attention to.
Telco companies such as AT&T and Verizon believe that Internet providers who use a large amount of bandwidth should have to pay the telco companies for this usage. They propose a "tiered" system whereby heavy users pay a premium for their bandwidth. Meanwhile, the Senate Commerce Committee has already convened hearings on "legislation calling for so-called 'Net Neutrality' that would prevent Internet service providers from prioritizing their traffic in this way." (Red Herring)
I'll talk more about the hearings in the days to come. Tonight I need to get ready for my talk tomorrow morning at a local high school on "the career of a writer."
Tomorrow's blog will be the second in a series about Wal-Mart. We'll get back to Net Neutrality later.