Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Verizon Online addresses complaints amid anti-spam battle

Published in Interface Tech News

PORTLAND, Maine ‹ After several months of concern, customers of the former Bell Atlantic have settled into new anti-spam security measures taken by New York-based Verizon Online. Verizon, the company resulting from the merger of GTE and Bell Atlantic, has been in the process of combining the two companies' policies.

Verizon Online introduced its New England and East Coast customers to a GTE policy of what it called "domain verification" for e-mail traffic being sent to its servers. When the new policy was introduced in mid-July, some customers were angered initially, but most concerns have since faded, according to company officials and industry Web sites covering the change.

Among those upset were Verizon DSL customers who hosted Web sites with companies other than Verizon. They wanted to send e-mail from addresses at their domains rather than their Verizon DSL-assigned address, from one of Verizon's domains, including Bellatlantic.net, Verizon.net, and GTE.net.

The new security is not unique to Verizon, according to company spokeswoman Bobbi Hennessey. MSN and Earthlink have similar policies, she said.

It is intended to serve two purposes, Hennessey said: to ensure that people sending e-mail through Verizon servers are Verizon customers, and to help control spam.

Some critics say the change is not an effective means of achieving spam control.

"To even suggest that this is a move to prevent spam is a red herring," wrote Joseph Barisa on MacInTouch.com, a technology news site covering Macintosh and Internet developments.

InternetWeek recently reported that some Verizon customers are pleased with the change because it allows better system security.

Hennessey said the company has had positive feedback from some people, though not as many as have complained. The move is part of a series of updates to Verizon systems that will bring the former Bell Atlantic and GTE networks into a single integrated system.

"We're aware that there are many ways of doing this," Hennessey said. She added that the policy is one GTE had in place prior to the merger.

"This is simply the best way," Hennessey said. "There's a downside to everything you select."

Of the company's 60,000 DSL subscribers, only about 1,000 called to complain. She said most of the complaints were resolved with an explanation of modifying e-mail software settings to include the user's own domain, as well as the Verizon-authorized address.

Other customers began sending e-mail through their Web hosting company's servers, rather than Verizon's, she said.

Hennessey said Verizon is working on additional spam-proofing of its systems, but declined to describe the projects. The company is expected to make an official announcement in the coming weeks.