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Mailbag: Readers chime in on paying for e-mail debate

Mar 30, 20062 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMessaging Apps

* Reader responses to the pay-for-e-mail schemes proposed by AOL and others

My article from last week discussing the potential merits of a pay-for-e-mail scheme as a means of combating spammers generated quite a few responses. Here is a sampling of them:

* “I pay plenty already for a high-speed cable connection, now e-mail? When will it stop? My cell phones are over $100 a month, too. If the future means paying for everything, count me as retiring to the mountains.”

* “Nice idea. Never going to happen.”

* “Spammers rarely use their own computer, e-mail or ISP to send spam. Thus the innocent victim with a compromised computer is the one who would get stuck with the bill, not the spammer.”

* “It is my belief that a majority of unsolicited commercial e-mail today comes from sources who employ questionable business tactics. Consequently, I fear that any cost of the plan you discuss would be borne by the same naive/ignorant computer users who have their service, equipment and credit cards hijacked by the unscrupulous.”

* “For legitimate companies that utilize e-mail to service their customers (service agreements, customer service help, etc.), this would add a tremendous overhead. What might be interesting is for you to analyze the customer-service e-mail volume from sites such as or [small and midsize businesses] and get a sense of the sheer volume of inbound/outbound e-mail. I think you would see that it would be cost-prohibitive and would put a lot of up-and-coming businesses out of business and seriously dent bigger businesses from offering self-serve.”

* “You raise a couple of interesting ideas. I think initially they make reasonable business sense. The problems I see with the idea would be enforcement and collecting the money; how would you implement a uniform way to determine who has paid their e-mail bill? What would stop the guy from dumping 10 million e-mails on the Internet, declaring bankruptcy and ‘disappearing’ immediately afterwards? What about the staff overhead in tracking and paying the e-mail bill? And finally and most importantly, no matter what kind system that might be implemented, it would be very quickly hacked.”

I certainly want to stress that I don’t relish the thought of paying for e-mail and I would strongly encourage other means of combating spam as alternatives, but I wanted to point out the possible advantages that such a payment scheme might offer. Thank you to everyone who provided me with their thoughts on the article.