Users look to ISPs to fight spam, says survey

Most users think their Internet service provider 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 last month from anti-spam software firm Bright Light Technologies Inc. in San Francisco.

The survey, conducted in tandem with IT advisory firm Gartner Group Inc., quizzed 13,000 e-mail users from 300 ISPs mostly in the United States, including America Online Inc. (AOL), Earthlink Network Inc., Juno Online Services Inc. and Microsoft Corp.’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 per cent said they think the federal government should provide protection from spam.

Meanwhile, seven per cent of respondents cited spam as their primary reason for switching to another service provider. For an ISP with one million customers, that “churn rate” could translate into about US$7 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 said it believes most spam originates in the United States, 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,” Paul said. In the United States, 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 per cent of users are spammed at least once a week; almost half get spammed six or more times a week;

• Twenty-four per cent 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; and,

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

Bright Light Technologies in San Francisco can be contacted at (415) 905-5595 or Gartner Group in Stamford, Conn., is at (203) 964-0096 or