By Ron VandenBoom
Its another Internet hoax.
Thats the word that has come down to me after making just two phone calls, one to the office of Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and the other to the office of Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.
My calls were prompted by an e-mail message that came through The Havre Daily News office stating Congress was considering legislation that would impose a five cent charge on every e-mail message delivered by billing Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
The legislation labeled Bill 602P was an attempt, the e-mail said, to offset losses claimed by the U.S. Postal Service of nearly $230,000,000 per year due to electronic mail.
The message went on to say the charge would tack an average of 50 cents a day, or $180 per year, on to the cost of maintaining an Internet connection.
It continued to claim newspapers have ignored the story, at least one congressmen called the charge a good idea, and it encouraged everyone to write their congressmen.
The spokesman for Sen. Burns told me their office has been receiving a lot of calls concerning the bogus e-mail message and that no such legislation exists.
The spokesman also suggested that anyone bold enough to suggest such a thing would have to be crazy.
With the President and Congress both pushing to advance Internet and computer use in the country it would be crazy, he said.
The spokesman did say that an issue called reciprocal compensation, is probably the issue that prompted the bogus e-mail messages and suggested that they probably originate from ISPs.
He denied that it had anything to do with the U.S. Postal Service or its profits.
Which is probably a good thing since the Postal Service just recently raised the cost of a first-class letter to 33 cents despite having made a substantial profit last year.
Although somewhat complex, in simplistic terms, reciprocal compensation refers to the custom of independent phone companies allowing other independent phone companies to use their lines without charge. The theory is that return traffic on lines balances out the cost.
Its the old Ill use yoursome, you can use minesome, and it will all even out in the end theory.
The Internet has placed a wrinkle in this previously perfect plan by creating situations of imbalance in places where ISPs are located and one way phone line usage has increased dramatically.
It is a complaint the Federal Communications Commission has been made aware of, the spokesman said, and at some point in time may have to address.
Whether this means ISPs will have to up the cost you pay to be on the Internet is too early to say. Like everyone else, ISPs need to make a profit and as their costs rise, so will ours, but its a little premature to start writing the FCC or Congress.
It is not too early to halt the spread of bogus e-mails that warn of doom and gloom.
In recent months The Havre Daily has received several e-mails that were dropped on my desk with instructions to investigate. None have proven to be valid and only serve to waste mine and everyone elses time. In this case the time of congressmen and senators is also being wasted.
And believe you me, they need all the time they can get if theyre ever going to lower my taxes, eliminate useless government programs, dissolve federal agencies, abolish worthless rules and regulations and preserve that old fashioned, out of date, misunderstood, concept of freedom that today only gets lip-service on July 4.
So take my advice knock off the hoax e-mail and put your talent to work preserving freedom on the Internet before they figure out a way to take that away too.