America Online intends to pick up the costs for nonprofit groups that wish to email AOL members via its new Enhanced Whitelist service. The announcement came in response to the protests of a nonprofit consortium that spoke out against the company’s plan to charge for a new bulk email service.
AOL said that it will offer nonprofit organizations two new free email options providing many of the features, such as images and links, of the company’s premium service designed for commercial mass email. On Monday, a consortium of nonprofit and public interest groups, including MoveOn.org Civic Action, the AFL-CIO, Gun Owners of America and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, lashed out at the plan by AOL and Yahoo to charge a fee for guaranteed delivery of bulk emails.
Some opponents called the fee-based service an email tax, while others said it would effectively silence less affluent organizations that can’t afford to pay AOL’s fees. AOL had argued that the rise of phishing schemes and spam requires the company to create a certified email so customers can tell good email from bad.
AOL spokesperson Nicholas Graham clarified, "We want to make it crystal clear for not-for-profits as well as not-for-profit advocacy groups that they will have multiple avenues of having email delivered," Graham said. The first new free service, AOL’s Enhanced Whitelist, is for nonprofit organizations that meet the company’s anti-spam and email requirements. Messages will be handled and delivered in a way like that of AOL’s new fee-based certified mail.
Unlike certified email, messages sent via the Enhanced Whitelist will not be marked as "certified" and will be delivered for free. AOL will charge commercial companies up to a penny per email for certified email. The Enhanced Whitelist service is scheduled to be available in June 2006.
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