Computerworld

Users look to ISPs to fight spam, survey Finds

Kicking off the PC Expo trade show this week, America Online's Chief Technology Officer Marc Andreessen predicted in a keynote speech that in order to continue its exponential growth, the IT industry needs to start thinking like consumers.

Most users think their Internet service provider (ISP) should help protect them from spam mail, and a significant number will switch to another ISP if it doesn't, according to survey results released this from anti-spam software firm Bright Light Technologies.

The survey, conducted in tandem with IT advisory firm Gartner Group Inc., quizzed 13,000 e-mail users from 300 ISPs mostly in the US, including America Online (AOL), Earthlink Network , Juno Online Services and Microsoft 's MSN.

Almost three-quarters of respondents said they think their ISP should help protect them from spam, defined in the survey as "unsolicited commercial e-mail." Fourteen percent said they think the federal government should provide protection from spam.

Meanwhile, 7%of respondents cited spam as their primary reason for switching to another service provider. For an ISP with 1 million customers, that "churn rate" could translate into about $US7 million a year in lost revenues, taking into account the cost of attracting new subscribers, the study found.

"This is a problem that's only getting worse," said Sunil Paul, Bright Light's chief executive officer. "The survey also found that the amount of spam you receive increases the longer you have an account with an ISP."

While Bright Light believes most spam originates in the US., international users don't escape the problem.

"In many ways spam overseas is an even bigger problem because of the cost of local telephone calls," he said. In the US., Internet users typically don't pay for the local calls they make to their service provider.

Additional findings from the survey include the following:

-- Ninety-one percent of users are spammed at least once a week; almost half get spammed six or more times a week.

-- Twenty-four percent believe their ISPs provided spammers with their e-mail addresses, yet fewer than one out of four complained to their ISP.

--Get-rich-quick schemes and advertisements for adult-content Web sites account for two-thirds of the junk mail received.

-- Twenty-five percent of users said they would be willing to pay an extra fee for a spam-filter service, and most respondents would look favorably at an ISP that offered a filter service as part of its program.

Bright Light Technologies, in San Francisco, can be contacted at +1-415-905-5595, and on the Web at http://www.brightlight.com. Gartner Group, in Stamford, Connecticut, is at +1-203-964-0096, and at http://www.gartner.com.