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Local Internet provider blocks junk e-mails


May 8, 2001

Henderson Online is trying to slam spam.

The local Internet service last week launched a free service to reduce the amount of unwanted, unsolicited e-mail -- called spam -- that hits its 18,000 customers' computer inboxes.

"This was, without question ... the No. 1 request we got from customers," said Joey Randolph, residential products manager for the newly renamed Cinergy Communications Inc.

Cinergy Communications (formerly Community Telephone/Network WCS) is the parent of several Internet service providers, including Henderson Online, Evansville Online, Pennyrile Online (in Union, Webster and other counties) and others.

(The Gleaner is a partner in the Henderson Online service.)

Cinergy has subscribed to a service offered by Brightmail Inc., a San Francisco company, that automatically screens incoming e-mail to determine whether it is known junk mail -- anything from get-rich-quick schemes to offers of pornography.

"Somewhat by design, they (Brightmail) try their best, 24 hours a day, to get spam. All the spam they get, they put into a database," Randolph said.

Brightmail computers then watch incoming e-mail for messages that match known spam.

Brightmail prevents e-mail it recognizes as spam from reaching a customer's inbox. But once per day or week, the customer will receive an e-mail message that lists the suspected spam. Customers then have the option to receive any of the message that were blocked.

"We can't say whether it will catch 70 or 50 or 90 percent," Randolph said. "But we think you'll see an impact as a customer.

"What we like is, it almost never catches good mail."

A Gleaner reporter's experience last week was that the filtering service stopped 79 spam messages while allowing approximately 50 pieces of junk mail through, reducing the amount of spam by about 60 percent. No legitimate messages were blocked.

"We'd rather have a few junk e-mails slip through and make sure it doesn't stop good stuff," Randolph said.

Henderson Online encourages customers to increase the effectiveness of the screening service by forwarding spam that slips through to junk@henderson.net.

Customers who don't want their incoming e-mail filtered can send a message to antispam@henderson.net and ask that the filter be removed from their account.

The addition of the spam filter is the latest in a series of moves to position Henderson Online and its sister companies for the arrival of high-speed broadband Internet services from BellSouth and cable TV companies.

Last year, Henderson Online dropped the price of its residential dialup service to $14.95 per month (or $13.95 for customers who also use the Community Telephone long-distance service), down from $19.95.

"Our reasoning is that not everybody is going to want broadband access," Randolph said. "We think there are plenty of residential customers that won't want to pay $40 or $50 per month."

It also now offers for free an optional service, KidSafe, that helps screen objectionable Internet material from youngsters.

As for the spam filter, "We have no plans at all to charge for this," Randolph said.

Community Telephone, headquartered in Evansville, offers local and long distance telephone service and Internet service in much of southwestern Indiana and western Kentucky.

Cinergy Corp., the Cincinnati-based parent of Cincinnati Gas and Electric and Public Service Indiana, in November became a minority owner of Community Telephone.

While the management team is unchanged, the investment includes the right to use the Cinergy name, which is widely known in Indiana and Ohio.

Henderson Online customers will "eventually see the name on their bills," Randolph said.

Cinergy Communications plans to offer Internet and telephone services in parts of the Cinergy electric utility service area.

By CHUCK STINNETT, Copyright © 2001 The Gleaner


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