spam policy sparks uproar
A service contract says Qwest will charge $5 for every spam
message sent by a user. Qwest says it's misinformation.
By Beth Potter, Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
A discussion on a website sparked a public-relations
brushfire for Qwest on Monday over the contract its
high-speed Internet customers must agree to.
The website, ARS Technica, which bills itself as "The PC
enthusiast's resource," did an analysis of the fine print in
Qwest's new terms of its service agreement for high-speed
One paragraph in the agreement that threatens to charge
customers $5 for every spam message sent by their computer
got a bunch of people hot under the collar.
"I wonder if Qwest will go after you if, say, your
grandmother's PC gets infected and starts sending spam in
the names of her grandchildren?" said a user identified as
Website user Brian Bush said Qwest customers should "vote
with the almighty (dollar) and get a different service."
But Qwest said misinformation is circulating in cyberspace.
The story was picked up by at least one other website,
Claire Mylott, a Qwest spokeswoman, said Qwest sent its
customers a letter in December saying its DSL service would
not be regulated anymore by tariff. It then posted a new
14-page agreement on the Web outlining its service terms.
But the "acceptable use" policy on spam has existed for
several years, Mylott said.
"The intent of the policy is to prevent the malicious use of
our network," Mylott said. "We do not impose fines or
sanctions against our customers who may be victims of worms
The policy, which covers Qwest's 1.3 million high-speed
Internet customers, doesn't mention that computers affected
by viruses can be exempted from fines.
Acceptable-use policies are standard in the industry and
used by phone, cable and Internet service providers to
govern how people use their networks.
The online brouhaha comes at a time when traditional phone
companies like Qwest are battling hard against cable
companies and other Internet service providers to protect
and grow their customer base. High-speed Internet is a key
product in the fight.
Qwest has caught spammers in the past and has "been
aggressive in eliminating the problem," Mylott said. "The
policy is there to serve as a deterrent. It's there to
protect our users from unacceptable materials."
Bob Larribeau, an independent telecom analyst in San
Francisco, said it's not good customer relations to "whack"
someone because he or she inadvertently accessed a virus.
"But I think having an acceptable-use policy is
appropriate," he said. "You don't want spam; you don't
want people to propagate worms knowingly."
Staff writer Kimberly S.
Johnson contributed to this report.
Staff writer Beth Potter can be reached at 303-820-1503 or