Feb. 28, 2006--Led by an online rights group, an unlikely coalition of small businesses, medical charities, gun advocates, and others, launched a national campaign yesterday against America Online over plans to charge fees for delivering unsolicited bulk e-mail.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based Internet watchdog, announced the campaign yesterday, calling it a thinly veiled "e-mail tax" on low-end users.

"The Internet is a revolutionary force for free speech, civic organizing, and economic innovation precisely because it is open and accessible to all Internet users equally," organizers said in an open letter signed by the Democratic National Committee, the AFL-CIO, Gun Owners of America, and dozens of other disparate groups.

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, the group had collected more than 500 names in an online petition opposing the fees.

Last October, both AOL and Yahoo announced plans to adopt CertifiedMail, a Silicon Valley-based service that sorts e-mail and collects between a quarter-cent and a cent per message from businesses and other groups, to ensure mass promotional messages get past spam and other inbox filters.

AOL, which is expected to start using the service within the next few months, has said the move is aimed at cutting down on junk e-mail. Yahoo is expected to charge fees only for bulk e-mails dealing with financial transactions.