View from the ISP hill

Australian ISPs are at the coalface of the anti-spam legislation that is before Parliament.

As telecommunications carriers, ISPs are licensed and regulated by the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) which has already said that shutting down the open relays that allow spam to be disseminated will be a matter of priority when it comes to domestic action.

Notably, the majority of the proposed punitive measures to be made available to the Government will rest with the ACA. ISPs will be in the middle, between spammers and their victims.

Pacific Internet Marketing Manager, Julia Cleeland Nicholls, said her company welcomed the bill but tried to focus on the overall customer experience.

"Spam doesn't enhance the customer experience whatsoever,” she said.

“We try to protect our customers from spam ourselves, so to see formal parameters being set in place to echo that is something we think is overdue."

Cleeland Nicholls said Pacific pro-actively managed customers who accidentally hosted spammers, and pulled the plug on miscreants.

"We've made a point of contacting them immediately and making sure they stop.

“In 99 per cent of cases this has been a successful approach. If they didn't stop we absolutely discontinue their service.”

Even so, Cleeland Nicholls said the internet industry needed to shape-up — and not just on spam.

"We would like to see the industry as a whole pick up its game [on spam], as well as general customer service. We stand and fall together as an industry,” she said.

“There will be some ISPs that will not be able to pick up their game yet.

“We would say to customers to do their research on what security is provided [by an ISP] and make that a primary consideration. The public should be asking."

CEO of Independent Service Providers, Mark Russell, supports the legislation but feels it needs teeth to do its job.

"I don't think it's strong enough,” he said.

“I think they should fine people who run open relays. In Australia you still have lots of people who will sign up for a broadband connection with a misconfigured Windows machine.

“I don't even look at the amount [of spam] we reject anymore.”

Russell agrees with Cleeland Nicholls that many ISPs must manage customers, although he feels more basic issues are at play over the proliferation of spam.

"If a certain operating system company would fix that problem, that would do a lot more to stop it. There are some companies that have been spamming for years that we block.

“They used to use OzeMail and Comindico and they finally stopped it. Now they just use open relays offshore. For them it works, they sell seminars."

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