March 9, 2008

Surcharges for Me, but Not for Thee

Justin Katz

Having recently stood, almost alone, against fascist attempts to mandate no-fee gift certificates, I couldn't help but chuckle — or, more accurately, to "pffft!" — as I filled out my car registration renewal today:

Since when, I guess, has a meddling oligarchy thought it worth the time to meddle with itself? (Dirty-minded readers need not comment.)

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The RI Registry of Motor Vehicles online services are via the web portal run by New England Interactive (NEI) which is a subsidiary of NIC Inc (NYSE: CPS; 2007 $233.9 million;

Under the contract, NEI is not to collect personally identifiable information but is allowed to charge a transaction fee for the public services rendered via the portal.

Financial transaction information voluntarily supplied by the user is transferred from NEI to NIC (NASDAQ: EGOV; 2007: $85.8 million) to ChoicePoint (major private US data miner and reseller of personally identifiable information for verification) which indicates in its Securities Exchange Commission filings that major RI income source is from reselling operator and motor vehicle information.

Federal Driver Privacy Protection Act; 18 U.S.C. § 2721 et. seq. (Public Law 103-322)prohibits the release of certain personal information from the state but however in order to do online business via you must “voluntarily” provide the information.

I believe the $1.50 technology surcharge is an add onto of the transaction fee by

Posted by: Ken at March 9, 2008 4:26 PM

But I sent a check.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 9, 2008 4:31 PM


Sending or in person I feel is best way. I will not do any business with state via for the above reasons

Posted by: Ken at March 9, 2008 8:28 PM

I recently ordered a copy of my driving record online. Of course, also got charged a "technology surcharge."

My question is very simple: shouldn't we be encouraging people to use technology? Wouldn't it make sense to charge people who do use "technology" LESS than people who could do the same transaction in person? Why isn't there a "personnel use surcharge" instead? I could have gone to Cranston and got the same driving record information in person. That would have meant having a highly paid state employee print down the same exact information for me, which would have cost me less money personally, but almost certainly would have cost the state more money in the process.

I don't have a problem with there being a "fee" for using something that has a cost. However, [if you give people a choice], the net result of that fee cannot be to make doing the "right" thing more expensive than doing it the old way. I'm just saying, if you want to migrate people over to using cheaper technology instead of expensive humans, you need to make the former cheaper than the latter. Of course, this being Rhode Island, the incentive is to do the exact opposite of what makes sense.

Posted by: Will at March 9, 2008 9:06 PM


State of RI tried floating a bond to build a new RIEMA HQ to get it out of National Guard HQ, combined with a new co-located E911 HQ and a co-located state of RI information technology center (i.e.,; computer center). The bond was shot down by the voters.

The computer center never had a budget so your state of RI computer system is about 20 years old and way out of date. Hence I see why the $1.50 surcharge to try and raise money for technology updates. Don’t forget Justice Williams asked the GA for $50K to upgrade court computer system but he was turned down and the GA went ahead and updated their computer systems instead with brand new laptops and flat screen monitors.

RI information systems are so antiquated it’s a wonder the workers get done what they do! I know of one state employee that drives from Providence to Johnston to download/upload a file that takes days over the normal transmission line but hours plugged into the computer directly.

Yes you are paying more for something that should cost less but this is the result of RI not paying attention and creating a centralized information infrastructure and the not allocating an information technology budget.

Here again, if it were not for the privacy issues of New England Interactive/NIC Inc selling data to ChoicePoint and ChoicePoint reselling privacy information to anyone who wants it I’d be happy to use

Posted by: Ken at March 9, 2008 10:30 PM

Try filing your annual report online with the Secretary of State's office. You are charged a $2.50 "convenience fee."
The convenience is all theirs - I should get a freakin' discount!

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at March 10, 2008 2:23 PM

Are you serious, Mike? The State of Mass has it right: they give you a slight discount if you file your annual report on-line.

All of these sound like flimsy excuses to simply collect more revenue.

Posted by: Monique at March 10, 2008 10:01 PM
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