Going Postal

An e-mail circulating last week expressed outrage over a bill proposed by the U.S. Postal Service that would charge Internet users a five-cent fee for every e-mail sent. The money, according to the document, would be collected by Internet service providers and then turned over to the Postal Service— as a means of offsetting the supposed $230 million in lost snail mail revenues caused by the popularity of e-mail. "Send this e-mail to all Americans on your list and tell your friends and relatives," read the letter, which was meticulously detailed, including the bill number and the names of senators and lawyers involved in the fight (and their assistants).

The only trouble: none of it is true. The fabricated bill, 602P, was supposedly introduced by Congressman Schnell, who doesn't exist. And the battle to prevent the legislation's passage is being waged (pro bono) by kindhearted but fictitious Washington lawyer Richard Stepp, of Berger, Stepp, and Gorman, and his lovely and devoted but make-believe assistant, Kate Turner, from their offices in Vienna, Virginia. It seems the only person who does exist is the poor Vienna woman with the last name Berger, who has been fielding phone calls all week.

The e-mail even made reference to an editorial in the March 6 issue of The Washingtonian, which allegedly called the proposed bill "a useful concept whose time has come." "It's totally false," giggles Brooke Foster, assistant editor at The Washingtonian. "We didn't even have a paper on that day."

"We understand a similar hoax occurred recently in Canada concerning Canada Post," says Pat McGovern, a communication program specialist for the Postal Service. But McGovern assures that e-mail is "as much a part of our lives here at the post office as anyone's. We use it all the time and are currently using this technology as a way for businesses to purchase postage online." The amount of business lost to e-mail, says McGovern, has been compensated for with revenue from the mailing of computer parts and items purchased online.

Roy Betts, manager of media relations for the Postal Service, released a statement saying, "The U.S. Postal Service has no authority to surcharge e-mail messages sent over the Internet, nor would it support such legislation."

contributor: Steph Watts

 
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