Less than a week ago I criticized the US Attorney for helping major ISPs create a new revenue source (charging commercial e-mailers for the right to send e-mails) by bringing criminal charges against a purported major spammer. Today the new business model I was anticipating was announced. Comcast, Cox, Road Runner, Verizon and others are reportedly joining together to, in effect, create a toll booth in which they charge e-mailers for each e-mail the ISPs let through their systems. This is a first major step towards all commercial e-mail being assessed a postage fee and, given the huge volume, this simply adds a huge revenue line to the ISP financial statements and results at the cost of other businesses.
Commercial e-mailers are worried about civil suits from AOL, Microsoft and others, and the recent criminal indictment is going to scare them into these programs. The US Attorneys and Attorney General need to stop being so naive as to think that all of the "free" help they are getting from ISPs is purely to protect the public. Hogwash. It is to build a powerful new revenue model in which they can immediately monetize the size of their installed e-mail base. Expect now to see the ISPs make it easier to get on their "black lists" and more difficult, or altogether impossible, to get on their "white lists". This will really drive demand for their pay per e-mail services, and in conjunction with civil lawsuits and, most importantly, criminal indictments at taxpayer expense, the demand for this "get out of jail free card" pre-paid e-mail program will skyrocket.
The Department of Justice and local prosecutors should understand that while some of the criminal indictments may be about fraud and phishing, they and others always couch the prosecution in terms of the defendant being a spammer! That reinforces the need for commercial e-mailers, even if they are 100% compliant with CAN-SPAM, to seek shelter.