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Bill 602P: U.S. Postal Tax on Email

Netlore Archive: Another day, another email hoax - Federal Bill 602P, supposedly imposing a 5-cent tax on every email you send

Description: Email hoax
Circulating since: May 1999
Status: False


Email example contributed May 1999:

Subject: E-MAIL SURCHARGE

Dear Internet Subscriber:

Please read the following carefully if you intend to stay online and continue using email: 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 your use of the Internet. Under proposed legislation the U.S. Postal Service will be attempting to bilk email users out of "alternate postage fees". Bill 602P will permit the Federal Govt to charge a 5 cent surcharge on every email delivered, by billing Internet Service Providers at source. The consumer would then be billed in turn by the ISP. Washington D.C. lawyer Richard Stepp is working without pay to prevent this legislation from becoming law.

The U.S. Postal Service is claiming that lost revenue due to the proliferation of email 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 citizen received about 10 pieces of email per day in 1998, the cost to the typical individual would be an additional 50 cents per day, or over $180 dollars per year, above and beyond their regular Internet costs. Note that this would be money paid directly to the U.S. Postal Service for a service they do not even provide. The whole point of the Internet is democracy and non-interference. If the federal government is permitted to tamper with our liberties by adding a surcharge to email, who knows where it will end. You are already paying an exorbitant price for snail mail because of bureacratic efficiency. It currently takes up to 6 days for a letter to be delivered from New York to Buffalo. If the U.S. Postal Service is allowed to tinker with email, it will mark the end of the "free" Internet in the United States. One congressman, Tony Schnell (r) has even suggested a "twenty to forty dollar per month surcharge on all Internet service" above and beyond the government's proposed email charges. Note that most of the major newspapers have ignored the story, the only exception being the Washingtonian which called the idea of email surcharge "a useful concept who's time has come" March 6th 1999 Editorial) Don't sit by and watch your freedoms erode away!

Send this email to all Americans on your list and tell your friends and relatives to write to their congressman and say "No!" to Bill 602P.

Kate Turner Assistant to Richard Stepp, Berger, Stepp and Gorman Attorneys at Law 216 Concorde Street, Vienna, Va.


Comments: Bill 602P will never die. This clever little exercise in creative writing first surfaced in April 1999 in a version specifically targeted at Canadian readers (a later version is set in Australia). The U.S. variant above, with all the original north-of-the-border references replaced by stateside equivalents, was first sighted online in May 1999.

The U.S. Postal Service has denounced the rumor as "completely false." Here's an excerpt from the published statement:

A completely false rumor concerning the U.S. Postal Service is being circulated over the Internet via e-mail.

The e-mail message claims that a "Congressman Schnell" has introduced "Bill 602P" to allow the federal government to impose a 5-cent surcharge on each e-mail message delivered over the Internet. The money would be collected by Internet Service Providers and then turned over to the Postal Service.

No such proposed legislation exists. In fact, no "Congressman Schnell" exists.

Roy Betts, manager of media relations for the Postal Service, stated it even more bluntly in this sound bite for reporters: "It's obviously a hoax."

Sad to say, the fakery is apparently not so obvious to the thousands who have kept the hoax alive since 1999 by forwarding it hither and yon without checking the facts. It's not as if the research is difficult to do.

No 'Bill 602P' in Library of Congress

Visit the Library of Congress Website and search House and Senate bills for a "Bill 602P." You won't find one. In fact, you won't find any bills at all beginning with a numeral or ending in the letter "P." Real Congressional bill numbers always begin with an "H" (for House) or an "S" (for Senate) and end in numerals.

Browse the roster of House members for a Congressman by the name of "Tony Schnell." You won't find it, because the man doesn't exist. Search a little further and you'll find that the U.S. Senate has issued a statement labeling Bill 602P a "hoax."

Lastly, The Washingtonian, alleged in the email to have published an editorial in support of Bill 602P, disavowed the allegation on its Website.

'Modem Tax' Redux

Rumors of government taxes or surcharges on Internet access never fail to generate hysteria among rank and file users. Witness the furor over the similar modem tax legend of a decade ago and the more recent per-minute access charge rumors that resulted in the FCC's offices being swamped with misguided letters of protest in recent years.

Whatever its truth value, folklore always tends to express people's real fears and concerns. The threat of federal taxation of the Internet and the effect it would have on affordable access are valid worries. It's essential to remain vigilant, yes; but that must include making the effort to distinguish real threats from the bogus ones, so our efforts don't go to waste.

Updates

Bill 602P Protests Result in Pre-Emptive Congressional Action - Ironically, the U.S. House of Representatives, reacting to calls, letters and emails protesting the nonexistent Bill 602P, passed a real bill in May 2000 prohibiting any such tax from ever being enacted. ("House Outlaws an Urban Legend," Industry Standard, May 17, 2000.)

'Bill 602P' Dupes Debaters in N.Y. Senate Race - Candidates Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio unknowingly debated the nonexistent federal bill on October 8, 2000. (If it's any consolation, they both came out against it.) See "Email Tax Hoax Fouls N.Y. Senate Debate."

Email Cuts Into USPS Revenue - The Bill 602P hoax won a new lease on life in 2001 when the U.S. Postal Service announced that due to major losses in revenue from the growing popularity of email and other factors, it is considering eliminating Saturday mail delivery. However, a surcharge on email was not one of the solutions proposed. See "Email Could Cancel Saturday Snail Mail" from NewsFactor Network.


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