Here is the answer from Apple. No hint that they will change their mind.
Thank you for contacting Apple Developer Support, my name is Andrej and I am happy to assist.
I understand that you are confused why you need to pay now for the Developer Program. I also understand that you would like to get answers regarding your concern. I am more than happy to help you with that.
Please be informed that since the 8th of June 2015 the Developer Program has been updated. We have now one Apple Developer Program which combined the iOS, Mac and Safari Developer Program. Below I attached you a very useful link regarding the major update.
https:/ let us know should you have any other question. If you prefer you can also call us at 00353 1 2480047 (Mon-Fri, 08:00-17:00 GMT), please refer then to your case number 822629949.
Have a great day!
With Kind Regards,