RealTime IT News

Rogers@Home Accused of Spamming

Rogers@Home, the Toronto-based cable-based Internet access provider, was accused Wednesday of spamming dial-up Internet users.

The division of Rogers Communications Inc. mass-mailed an email solicitation with the subject line "Here is your chance!" to an unknown number of recipients in Canada, inviting them to "join the cable Internet revolution."

Among those who received the e-mail was Frank DeChellis, president of Internet Access Worldwide, an Internet service provider offering dial-up and digital subscriber line service in Welland, Ontario.

According to DeChellis, the mass e-mailing violated Internet etiquette.

"Everybody I know who runs ISPs avoids spamming like the plague, yet a multi-billion dollar Internet company went ahead and did it and used all the tricks."

Attached to each message from Rogers@Home was a 295-kilobit byte file, which, if executed, provided a multimedia presentation demonstrating the benefits of cable modem service over traditional dial-up access.

For Krishna Bera, a computer consultant in Ottawa, the attachment was not welcome.

"I only have a 33.6 modem, and it took a couple minutes to download the file. It basically cost me time to download the thing," he said. Despite the message's invitation to launch the attachment, Bera declined, saying that he follows safe computing practices and never opens attachments to unsolicited messages.

According to message headers, the emails were sent on Rogers@Home's behalf from MediaSynergy, an outsourced e-mail provider which operates the Flo Network, a high-volume direct e-mailing system.

A spokesperson for the company said MediaSynergy uses only opt-in lists provided by its customers for its mass mailings, and always provides information in the message on how to opt out.

Both Bera and DeChellis said they do not recall opting in to receive messages from Rogers@Home. Rogers@Home representatives declined to comment on how they acquired their list.

While Rogers is Canada's largest cable operator, it lags number two Alberta-based Shaw Communications in total cable modem subscribers, according to research firm Kinetic Strategies.

Kinetics' president Michael Harris said Rogers@Home has been very aggressive in its marketing to attract new subscribers, but the mass e-mail was likely the result of a misguided list purchase.

"Targeting existing dial-up users makes good sense from a marketing perspective, because they've felt the pain of dial-up and typically are searching for an alternative. But the question is, how do you do it without spamming people," Harris said.