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An e-mail hoax claimed that "Bill 602P" will permit the US federal government to allow the US Postal Service to charge a 5 cent surcharge on every e-mail delivered. This was supposedly going to be done by billing the Internet Service Providers at source. Why? Because the U.S. Postal Service is claiming that lost revenue due to the proliferation of email is costing them nearly $230,000,000 in revenue per year. This hoax originated as a Canadian bill but was modified to suit the needs of the US.

While this is obviously untrue (the USPS has nothing to do with e-mail), a question about it was posed by WCBS newsperson Marcia Kramer during an October 8th, 2000, debate between two candidates for a U.S. Senate seat from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Congressman Rick Lazio. Apparently none of the three realized that this bill is fictitious. The transcript goes:

KRAMER: I'd like to ask you how you stand on Federal Bill 602P. I'm going to actually tell you what it is.

CLINTON: I have no idea. Laughter

KRAMER: I'm going to tell you what it is. Under the bill that's now before Congress, the U.S. Postal Service would be able to bill e-mail users five cents for each e-mail they send even though the post office provides no service. They want this to help recoup losses of about $230 million a year because of the proliferation of e-mails. But if you'll just send 10 e-mails a day, that would cost consumers an extra $180 a year. So I'm wondering if you would vote for this bill. And do you see the Internet as a source of revenue for the government in the years to come?

CLINTON: Well, based on your description, Marcia, I wouldn't vote for that bill. It sounds burdensome and not justifiable to me. I have been a supporter of the moratorium on taxation on the Internet. I think that we do have to let loose this extraordinary communication device and see how far it can go in connecting people up. And I'd like to monitor this closely and take a look at it in the time when the moratorium expires.

But is important that we do everything we can do build the infrastructure of New York to take advantage of the Internet. I have been all over this state to all 62 counties and I've been in countless schools, and some of them are the best in the world and the most highly wired and others are not. If we're going to take advantage of the new information economy, we have to be sure that all of our citizens and particularly our children are well prepared. That's why I have proposed high-tech infrastructure bonds as part of my economic plans that would enable us to provide low-cost Internet access and broadband access around the state. It's why I hope that we'll do a better job in providing the computers and Internet access to all of our children and all of our schools so that no child gets left behind. And it's why we need to close the digital divide throughout the state.

New York should be as Silicon Alley is: a beacon magnet throughout the state for the new economy. And I want to be partner with local officials, business, labor and others to make sure that happens. So I don't want anything to interfere with that kind of opportunity.

KRAMER: Mr. Lazio, your rebuttal.

LAZIO: I am absolutely opposed to this. This is an example of the government's greedy hand in trying to take money from taxpayers that, frankly, it has not right to. We need to keep the government's hands off the Internet. It has a capacity for creating more jobs, more high-paying jobs for New Yorkers than any other potential sector in the future. That's why I have voted for a moratorium on taxes on the Internet. That's why I have a hundred percent record on high-tech issues because I know that's important to New York.

I've been building partnerships with local businesses to create jobs for our young people. And I'll tell you, it's very, very important for us to keep our taxes low. And I distance myself, frankly, from Mrs. Clinton's 15 different support--15 different tax increases...

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