How I was Murdered Electronically

by Patrick Grote

Originally published in CompuNotes Issue #102 on October 7, 1997

I was Persona NonGrata or however that legal term goes . . .

It all started about 1:00am week ago. I was happily cruising around the net, reading and answering e-mail and working on the 100th issue of CompuNotes. All of the sudden my ISDN connection disconnected and I lost my connection.

No big deal, I tried to dial back into my ISP and was told I couldn't logon successfully. I've seen this before, so I rebooted and retried. Same error. Over and over and over again I tried with no luck. I decided to go to bed and try it in the morning.

I woke up the next morning and called my ISP's technical support line. A lady answered and I asked her if they were having system trouble. She said no, so I tried to logon again with no luck. I told her about my problem and she said I had been deleted for spamming. What? I don't spam I told her. She said the sysadmin had deleted me last night at 12:41am for spamming. I asked her if this was a maul or automatic process and she said manual. I then asked to talk to the sysadmin. He wasn't available. I asked if she could beep him. She said he didn't have a beeper. I then questioned why the sysadmin of a large, regional ISP doesn't have a beeper. She then said she couldn't beep him. I asked if there was anyone else I could talk to. She said no. She said the sysadmin would be in in about an hour. Great, it's 8:00am now, they should be there by 9:00am . . .

Panic started to set in as I realized if I am deleted my EMAIL id id bouncing messages! I logged on to AOL and sent my ISP ID mail. Sure enough, it bounced. I called the lady back at technical support and complained. Again, she offered no help. I started sulking as I get over 300 messages a day. What was I missing?

As I started driving to work I thought what the hell is going on? I work in the business. I probably know more about networking than anyone at the ISP. Heck, I have helped the sysadmin work out a router issue in the past. The reason I liked this ISP is that their technical support people treat me like I know what I am talking about. I have referred over 6 people to their service just because of this! They don't question what I am asking and if they don't know the answer they give me the sysadmin. The sysadmin and I have a mutual respect for each other -- until now.

The thing that irked me the most was being called a spammer. Is there a worse connotation in the Internet world now? I think pediophiles rank above spammers on some folk's lists. Sure, I run a couple of mailing lists, but I have been running them for two months without any issues.

By 10:30am I still hadn't heard anything. By 12:00pm I was in major panic mode and went home for lunch. I called my ISP and a man answered. He said he was the Director of Sales and Marketing. Whew, I thought, finally someone will look out for me the customer. I explained my situation and right when I expected an apology this guy wigs out on me. He says I got what I deserved and that their TOS agreement says you can't send more than 20 messages at a time. I gain my composure and explain my mailing lists are for people who subscribe and for the 20 message limit, I have never seen that. He explains the TOS changes and the latest one is on the website. I complain that if they change it they should notify the users. He says they aren't legally obligated to do that. Great, so much for customer support.

The Director takes my information, makes a snide comment about how I should have used MajorDomo (which wasn't available when I signed up for the ISP and since they don't send out their new TOS . . .) and he will "e-mail" the message to the sysadmin. I ask if he can call the sysadmin and he says no.

I used the next 30 minutes surfing the net using my wife's 28.8k dial up connection looking for a national ISP to use. And yes, it was absolute hell using 28.8k after 128k . . .

As I disconnected the 28.8k connection I noticed we had a new voice mail message. It was the Director asking me to call him. I made the call expecting the worst. The man who answered the phone said he was the Director, but by the cordialness of his voice and the kid gloves he was using to talk to me I swear it was something else. He said he received a message from the sysadmin. The sysadmin didn't realize it was a mailing list and deleted me. I asked why the sysadmin hadn't called me. The Director said he didn't call because it was so late at night. I asked him if he would say the sysadmin didn't call me out of courtesy. The Director said yes. I said I expect that courtesy. It was over his head. The Director went on to explain that he would recreate my ID and the sysadmin said I could continue to send mail out. I verified that sending out the 3000 or so messages a week would be ok. The Director said yes. I said I would follow-up with the sysadmin to make sure before I sent any mail out. The Director got pensive and said everything was cool between me and the sysadmin and that I shouldn't send him mail. Hmmm, what an odd answer.

The Director recreated my ID. I had to remind him I was 128k dial up and needed those permissions to dial into the ISDN bank. The Director said thanks for the reminder, again I help out, and then everything was fine. I decided to e-mail the sysadmin. I broke out how many messages I send. I sent him copies of the subscription forms. Everything. He finally replied that it was ok, so I started sending mail out. It has been fine since.

I must admit when this first happened I vowed to change ISPs, start a I HATE THIS ISP webpage, e-mail all the users I could find to try to get them to switch and move the folks I could off their system. As the day went on I began to understand where they are coming from. Their SHOOT FIRST, ASK QUESTIONS LATER approach was a bit hasty, especially given my technical ability and reputation. They could have easily disabled my id and let my incoming mail queue. They didn't. We have made SPAM and SPAMMERS such a hated thought that an ISP panics and does this. What has happened?



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