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Verizon to implement 'antispam' e-mail policy


July 30, 2001

Verizon Communications is launching a new ''antispam'' e-mail policy for its digital subscriber line customers next week that some subscribers fear could be a monopolistic attempt to crush small rival Internet service providers.

But a Verizon spokesman denies the new policy is anticompetitive, and says it should prove to be ''really insignificant'' for the vast majority of customers.

The new policy, which takes effect Aug. 8, will mainly affect two groups of people and businesses: those who use Verizon for DSL access and e-mail and a separate company for hosting their Web page, and people who want to be able to send e-mail from their Verizon account but have it appear to come from an address that corresponds to the name of their employer.

By Verizon's estimates, as many as 50,000 of its 1 million DSL customers nationwide could be affected.

Starting next week, Verizon has said, its e-mail servers will not deliver any mail originated by Verizon customers unless they have an e-mail address that ends in verizon.net, bellatlantic.net, or a ''domain name'' corresponding to a World Wide Web domain hosted by Verizon.

Verizon spokesman Larry Plumb said this policy is one of several new efforts underway to crack down on spam, or unsolicited e-mail, by preventing spammers from using phony reply addresses to mask their identity.

However, the policy has alarmed a number of customers, primarily those who use non-Verizon companies to host their Web sites. Some say they feel they are being forced to choose to move their e-mail accounts from Verizon over to their Web hosting company or, because it is probably easier, move their Web hosting business over to Verizon to be able to keep sending e-mail from their existing domain name.

Patricia Ames, president of Publication Resources Inc. in Ipswich, a company that prepares and prints newsletters and brochures for businesses, said the change is putting pressure on her to consider dropping her current Web hosting company, Primus, which bought Shore.net, so she can keep sending e-mail through her pubresources.com address, which now goes through her Verizon DSL line. ''Verizon seems to be forcing you, if you have high-speed access, to also buy their hosting services,'' Ames said.

''It's got to be having an impact squeezing out other ISPs. Now that they've elbowed out so much of their competition, they've got essentially a monopoly'' on DSL access, ''and they're using that monopoly to put pressure on other ISPs.''

Gail Phaneuf of the Computer Doctor, a South End computer consulting firm, said several of her clients are concerned that they, too, will have to move their Web hosting business over to Verizon in order to avoid major hassles.

Verizon's Plumb, however, said customers can just as easily choose to move their e-mail over to other Web hosting companies as to move their Web hosting over to Verizon. Web-based e-mail services such as America Online, Hotmail, and Yahoo mail will continue to work as they now do after the Verizon change, Plumb said.

Plumb said Verizon believes the change will affect no more than a fraction of its DSL subscribers. ''At the end of the day, the changes are really insignificant,'' he said.

Moreover, after Aug. 8, people who have the technical savvy to put an ''alias'' on their outbound mail can still do so in a limited way, Plumb said. While no e-mail will be sent from addresses other than Verizon.net or Bellatlantic.net or other authorized addresses, subscribers who have those addresses will be able to send mail and have it appear to come from the address they normally use at work.

For example, a Mary Smith could configure her Verizon account to have mail show up in recipients' mailboxes as if it came from MarySmith@HerCompany.com.

When recipients open the mail, Plumb said, they would probably see (MarySmith@Verizon.net) after MarySmith@HerCompany.com on most e-mail software, but could just hit the reply button to respond. The value of this plan, Plumb said, is that people can continue to use the e-mail address their friends and business associates recognize, instead of a new address that may look like a spammer's and would get deleted straight from the inbox unopened.

''It's a change of procedure that for the vast majority of people shouldn't affect you in any way, shape or form,'' Plumb said, except that it could help reduce the volume of spam mail - touting diet pills, pornography, debt consolidation loans and the like - that Verizon DSL customers get.

At DSLreports.com, a popular online forum for DSL issues, opinion appears to be sharply divided over the impact of the change. Several people posting messages said they believe the change will make it easier for Verizon to monitor their e-mail, and one said, ''It is bound to be merely a hassle to legitimate customers and ineffective against big spammers'' who may be able to create phony verizon.net addresses.

But several other participants - the thread does not make clear whether any work for Verizon - called the policy overdue and positive. And one said, ''Verizon's policy will probably affect 0.0001 percent of legitimate mail users.''

This story ran on page C1 of the Boston Globe on 7/30/2001.

By Peter J. Howe, Globe Staff, Copyright © 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.


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