Should ISPs Be Required To Forward Email?

The government is weighing whether ISPs should be required to forward email after customers switch providers. Freelance writer Gail Mortenson filed a petition with the FCC claiming that she lost business because AOL and Time Warner refused to forward her emails for six months. The FCC doesn’t seem overly interested in the petition, but Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is watching closely to see how the FCC proceeds.

Internet providers, including Time Warner Cable Inc., Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc., as well as Google Inc. and Yahoo! Inc., which provide e-mail services, declined to comment. Several said it’s the first time they’ve heard about the issue.

Kate Dean, executive director of the U.S. Internet Service Provider Association —- a trade group whose members include AOL, Verizon and Comcast —- said it will respond to Mortenson’s petition, but declined to make any comments until then.

Some companies, such as Yahoo! and Google, allow their e-mail users to forward incoming mail to another address. There are other companies, such as Pobox.com, that also provide an e-mail forwarding service.

Richi Jennings, an analyst with San Francisco-based Ferris Research, said he imagines that the FCC could mandate that companies provide a free e-mail forwarding service, but doubts that it would

“Such a forwarding service would cost the service providers money in network bandwidth, server utilization and operational overhead,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Service providers typically operate with low margins, relying on volume to make acceptable profit.”

What do you think? Should ISPs be required to forward email? Tell us in the comments.

Government considers mandating Internet service providers to forward customers’ e-mails [AP]
(Photo: bingbing)