ISP Wants AOL to Stop E-mail Block

Web hosting company C I Host said AOL is illegally blocking email from its customers and breaking a court order in the process — all in the name of the war on spam.

According to the Bedford, Tex., company, Fort Worth District Court Judge Bonnie Sudderth slapped the AOL Time Warner Internet unit with a temporary restraining order last Friday, after C I Host complained that AOL had unfairly labeled it as a source of spam and cut off all of its customers from sending email to AOL customers. C I Host said the block dates back to Aug. 12, and since the Friday order AOL has not unblocked all of its IP addresses.

In a statement, C I Host CEO Christopher Faulker decried AOL’s action and promised further litigation to recoup monetary damages. The next hearing in the matter is slated for Sept.12.

“What they have done is not only wrong, but it is in every sense censorship on their part,” he said. “This action on their part has been very damaging to our business and that of our clients.”

AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said the case was “totally without merit” and AOL would continue to fight it in court.

“We’re hopeful that, once all the facts are laid out, our actions to protect our members from unwanted email will be deemed to be not just appropriate, but a necessary enforcement of our anti-spam policies,” he said.

Graham said AOL had complied with the judge’s order to the extent it could.

In March, AOL instituted a policy of blocking dynamically generated email addresses came under fire for unfairly hurting legitimate email relay users. Under the policy, AOL blocks broadband residential dynamic IP addresses that it identifies as sources of spam.

AOL says the policy has cut spam complaints by as much as 90 percent. However, some small businesses have complained the policy unfairly hurts them, since small businesses often send out email by routing their own servers through a residential broadband network.

AOL has moved aggressively to fight spam. The Internet service blocks over a billion messages a day and maintains strict standards for commercial email senders. The company maintains a so-called white list of companies that confirm to its standards, yet it has said that AOL members still complain about email from white-listed senders. AOL relies on its “report as spam” button to guide it in identifying problem emailers.

C I Host said it requires all of its customers to sign a terms of service agreement that forbids them from using the service for spam.

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