Tag Archives: ISP

Spam Scam

You wake up to that first cup of coffee, and at some point shortly before or after your shower, you pop your emails. At first glance, there are many, but in a couple of seconds you realize that several are from unwanted sources that have managed to evade your spam filters. After mumbling a few expletives, you start deleting in bulk…but wait!. One catches your attention and you open it. And in that fleeting moment, the burgeoning spam industry notches another victory.

Conceptually, spam (unwanted email) is not too different than legitimate forms of opt-in email marketing: it’s a competition first for your eye balls and then your money. It’s success is measured in standard marketing metrics – rates of delivery, conversion, ROI, etc. The biggest difference, perhaps, lies in who’s footing the bill. In the case of email spam, it’s…well, you and me.

According to Ferris Research, in 2009 worldwide spam costs hit a staggering $130 billion of which $42 billion was in the US alone.  This represents a 30% increase from two years prior.  Cost components for spam are measured in three major ways:

1)      Productivity loss from inspecting and deleting spam that gets missed by spam control products

2)      Productivity loss from searching for legitimate email deleted in error by spam control products

3)      Operations and helpdesk running costs

The fact is, of all the emails sent daily, 75% are spam messages!

And on the M86 Security Labs’ list of countries with greatest spam origination, India leads the charge. Russia and Viet Nam follow closely behind. The US ranks sixth in order.  Of all the industries in the spam world, the pharmaceuticals dominate at a whopping 55% of the total (Viva Viagra!), followed by replicas at 32%. Then it drops to 5% for diplomas, 3% for gambling, and 2% for dating.

The reality is that spammers are winning overall, and their unscrupulous activities aren’t disappearing any time soon. User spam filters are more sophisticated than ever, but so are the spammers! More regulation might alleviate some of the problem but not all of it. As long as spam recipients click and buy, the spam industry will endure. You don’t need a high conversion rate to thrive in a business with no direct costs.

Of all of us who bear the brunt of spam costs, internet service providers pay their fare share in the form of excess server capacity, human resources, backbone capacity and anti-spam software. We, at InfoStructure, have partnered with a network service provider that has developed a powerful Bit Scrubber spam-detection software. We also have devised a rules-based system by which commercial marketers may be “gray listed” for noncompliance of email marketing standards. While we have an “open network” over which customer traffic is never monitored, we do engage these anti-spam protocols to minimize spam among our business and residential customers.

The Digital Divide – A Social Problem

While Internet broadband has become a necessity for both businesses and consumers alike, for thousands of rural communities throughout the US, it’s either nonexistent or available at unaffordable rates. Government stimulus funding is helping…but not enough.

The popular media tag for the gap in broadband availability, generally between rural America and its cities, is “the digital divide.” While this divide may not be widening, it is deepening due to the proliferation of web applications in “life line” areas, such as online education, banking and investing, employment search and job application placement, phone communications via VoIP, e-commerce, and health care, all of which have transformed Internet broadband into a social necessity. And every day that goes by, rural communities are feeling the void.

The problem creating the digital divide of today is the same as ten years ago: low population density makes it economically difficult for service providers to justify building broadband networks into rural areas; the supply/demand equation is simply out of whack. And with capital being tight, the risks are too great, even with a long term optimistic model.

In response to these factors, a compelling argument can be made for federal subsidization of rural broadband, with the same economic basis as the on-going federal subsidy of rural phone lines. However, Ray Baum of the Oregon Public Utilities Commission  recently suggested that such a subsidy will not likely happen any time soon.  At the 2010 Oregon Connections Telecommunications Conference held on October 21 and 22, he reminded attendees that all government subsidies are being scrutinized and a phone-line-like subsidy for broadband would be unlikely. Later in the conference, Thomas Brown of the FCC mentioned that a recommendation has recently been made to transition universal service funds to support rural broadband, but nothing was mentioned in terms of its probability or timing.

At the same conference, a panel of telecom leaders seemed to agree that the digital divide is a “social problem” and must be addressed as such. In other words, the federal government alone will not provide the solution. The key lies largely in rural community leadership. Someone needs to take ownership and accountability within each rural community and make broadband a goal with high priority. Collaboration with telecom carriers, economic development groups, local “anchor tenants” and town residents will help to create a win/win model that mitigates the risk in broadband network investment. The panel also warned that the worst thing a rural municipality could do is place its own interests before its residents in an attempt to profit from a broadband network with the objective of a “trickle-down” effect – a model which has failed among several small and large municipalities around the country.