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What's this controversy all about?
AOL has proposed the adoption of a system called CertifiedEmail, provided by Goodmail Systems. Under this pay-to-send system, affluent mass-emailers who are willing to pay AOL the equivalent of an "email tax" would get to bypass AOL's spam filters and get guaranteed delivery to the inboxes of AOL customers.
Everyone who can't afford to pay AOL's "email tax" - including charities, small businesses, civic organizations, and even families with mailing lists - will have no guarantee that their emails will be delivered. If other companies follow AOL in adopting pay-to-send systems, the Internet will become permanently divided into two classes of users - those who can afford to pay for guaranteed delivery and everyone else left behind with unreliable service.
The Internet is a revolutionary force for free speech, civic organizing, and economic innovation specifically because it is open and accessible to all Internet users. With a free and open Internet, small ideas can become big ideas overnight. AOL's move to introduce a pay-to-send system is a danger to this openness, and we urge them to reconsider.
AOL's proposed pay-to-send system is the first step down the slippery slope toward dividing the Internet into two classes of users—those who get preferential treatment and those who are left behind.
AOL pretends nothing would change for senders who don't pay, but that's not reality. The moment AOL switches to a world where giant emailers pay for preferential treatment, AOL faces this internal choice: spend money to keep spam filters up-to-date so legitimate email isn't identified as spam, or make money by neglecting their spam filters and pushing more senders to pay for guaranteed delivery. Which do you think they'll choose?