Failure to Communicate

"What we have here is a failure to communicate." Ahh, one of my favorite movie lines of all time from "Cool Hand Luke." Unfortunately, it has moved from being a movie line to a full-blown reality show nightmare here at the E-mail Insider Chateau. Based on our decision to move the E-mail Data Source phone service from one voice over IP service, Vonage, to a different voice over IP service (VoIP), we have had four days in the last few weeks where our phone service was shut down completely due to problems with the company's system.

Yesterday, our phone number - and of course one of the main reasons with going with VoIP is the ability to migrate numbers - was transferred to our new "telephone" company from Vonage and our phones haven't worked since. That sound you hear is steam coming out of my ears. And since our new phone provider is one of those companies that "eats its own dog food," that means that when our service goes out, their service goes out - including phone calls to their technical support team.



The good news is that I am paying for this disruption in my business. Why is this good news? Because I can call up the company and complain and look for an alternative system that works. For those in the business of e-mail marketing, that is not the case. With the increasing power of vigilante domain blocking and blacklisting services, companies are finding their legitimate e-mail being blocked by ISPs who subscribe to these services.

A good example of this occurred a few weeks ago when I was unable to send an e-mail to one of my employees who used Road Runner as her ISP. We were blocked. Why? According to our ISP, it was because of a single spammer using a Yahoo! e-mail address. In order to block the spammer, Road Runner apparently added hundreds of IP address to their blacklist, including ours. As a result, I was not able to conduct business properly because someone unconnected to my company or me was able to prevent my ability to communicate with my own employees. Our ISP was working with Road Runner to get us unblocked, but why should they have to?

Congress is once again taking up Can-Spam and is accepting suggestions on ways to improve the law. Here is something I'd like to see enacted: Make it illegal to block e-mail messages. In the black hat/white hat war on spam, we've seen the Jedi Knights of the anti-spam world turn into Darth Vader.

It means little to set laws on how to properly e-mail, if, when companies submit to these rules and regulations in order to remain in compliance, they still need to deal with every war lord with a blacklist. Yes, set the rules for e-mail marketing compliance. Make them strict. But in so doing, make it illegal to block e-mails from companies that can show they have stayed within the lines. A good law should protect everyone.

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