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    graded response based on user preference

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    A Congressional staffer calls you on the phone for advice. Her boss may propose a law where sending an email costs 5 cents for every email address included in the message. The government does not get the money; it goes to the recipient(s) of the email. That is, each person has an email credit account. For every email sent, 5 cents automatically transfers from the sender's accounts to the recipient's account. This "postage" collection occurs when the email first appears on a U.S. email server, or the message does not proceed.

    Part a: First, the staffer wants your opinion about the impact this system has on spam volume. What would you say, and why?

    Part b: Second, the staffer wants to know whether the system would be more efficient if each recipient sets the price for receiving an email. In other words, one recipient might set the price of 0 while another might charge $.30 per email. Assume software exists that permits this to happen automatically and the sender can find a recipient's price before sending. What do you recommend?

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    Solution Preview

    If a congressional staff member calls me on the phone for advice on this matter, then he'd better sit down a while and listen to a lecture about the constitution and the freedom of information. It is one thing charging a fee for a service, for example, for sending a letter in the mail. I use the service. I pay for the service. I do not use the service. I do not pay for the service. It is another thing altogether to pay for a service that I am already paying for! Think about it. Most email accounts (POP3 accounts) are paid accounts in the first place. I pay an ISP a fee for the use of the email account. That should be the end of the story.

    I am not asking for another company for a service. I've already bought the service. This taxation is a clear tax on my right to communicate. It is intrusive and smacks of big brother and government surveillance. Notice, that the tax collected (cleverly called "postage") occurs when the email first appears on a U.S. email server. "U.S." means the United States Government, not the United States of America (the republic). Why should we authorize government intrusion into private (or even corporate) communications?

    Further, notice this ominous threat. If the sender does not have sufficent "funds" in his account, the message does not proceed to the recipient. So, who is going to credit the sender's account so that he can get ...

    Solution Summary

    Economics of the Internet are explored. The graded response based on user preferences are discussed.