ISP association seeks stats behind anti-spam efforts

P>The Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP) has launched a survey to determine what ISPs across the country are doing to combat spam and e-mail viruses.

The results of the survey will help CAIP and the Federal Anti-Spam Task

Force understand existing anti-spam efforts and plan further ways of addressing the spam problem, said Tom Copeland, chair of CAIP. He said CAIP believes most Canadian ISPs are making efforts to stop junk e-mail and viruses from reaching their subscribers and to prevent subscribers from sending such e-mail, but there are no hard statistics to verify this.

“”Everybody who’s being vocal about fighting spam is doing filtering,”” Copeland said. What is not known is whether all ISPs actively filter e-mail, though Copeland said he believes many smaller ISPs are in fact ahead of the larger ones in implementing some anti-spam measures, a fact he attributed to the relative ease of putting such precautions in place for a smaller subscriber base.

The survey “”is trying to quantify that effort,”” said Kevin Wennekes, research director for CAIP. “”A lot has been said in the area of what ISPs are doing, and we’re trying to put some numbers around that.””

Wennekes said the survey’s results will give ISPs a benchmark against which to measure their own anti-spam and anti-virus efforts. At least some data from the survey will be made public, the CAIP officials said.

The survey, which is being conducted online, asks ISPs whether they filter incoming e-mail for spam and viruses, what action they take on complaints of spamming by their own subscribers, what percentage of customer complaints they receive deal with spam and viruses, whether they have received complaints about filters blocking legitimate e-mail, and other questions to do with anti-spam efforts.

Filtering mail to stop spam and viruses is widespread at least among larger ISPs. Officials of Rogers Communications Inc., Bell Canada and Cogeco Inc. all said their companies have spam filtering in place. “”We have many layers of filters,”” said Peter Costanzo, director of service quality and delivery for Bell’s Sympatico ISP service.

Copeland said one of the survey’s goals is to address public perceptions about ISPs’ spam-blocking efforts. “”The public thinks we can do more,”” he said, “”and we tend to think it’s because they don’t realize the ongoing effort that takes place to keep junk mail out of their mailboxes.”” In the past, Copeland said, some ISPs have made little effort to tell customers about their spam- and virus-filtering measures.

In the spring, CAIP invited Canadian ISPs to a meeting to discuss additional ways of attacking the spam problem. Copeland said the meeting was held in June, and since then CAIP has brought its anti-spam efforts under the umbrella of the Federal Anti-Spam Task Force, announced by Industry Minister Lucienne Robillard in May.

Current efforts include work on a list of anti-spam best practices for e-mail providers, based on the task force’s discussions and on a similar document produced by a U.S. group, and a project to compile a list of anti-spam experts at various ISPs and e-mail providers, to make it easier to contact the right people quickly about spam or virus problems.

CAIP actually came up with the idea of a survey on spam-fighting efforts earlier in the spring, before issuing its call to arms to ISPs, Copeland said.

The day after an e-mail announcing the survey was distributed, Wennekes said close to 50 respondents had already completed it. The official deadline for responses was set at Sept. 28, and Wennekes said the entire process of gathering and compiling data would probably take six to eight weeks.

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Grant Buckler
Grant Buckler
Freelance journalist specializing in information technology, telecommunications, energy & clean tech. Theatre-lover & trainee hobby farmer.

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