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Re: OT: question re. the Volume of unwanted email (fwd)

  • From: Eric A. Hall
  • Date: Wed Jun 18 15:28:57 2003

on 6/18/2003 9:51 AM Miles Fidelman wrote:

> Someone on the cybertelecom list raised a question about the real costs
> of handling spam (see below) in terms of computer resources,
> transmission, etc.  This dovetailed a discussion I had recently with
> several former BBN colleagues - where someone pointed out that email is
> not a very high percentage of total internet traffic, compared to all
> the multimedia and video floating around these days.

The major cost items I've seen are increased bandwidth costs (measured
rate), equipment, filtering software/services, and personnel. These costs
vary depending on the size of the organization and the kinds of service
the organization provides (as a dramatic example, the cost burden is
proportionally higher for an email house like pobox than it would be for
yahoo). There are other indirect costs too; lots of organizations have
stopped sharing backup MX services because of problems with assymetrical
filtering, which can translate into more outages, which can lead to ...

My feeling is that any organization with at least one full-time spam
staffer could probably come up with a minimal cost estimate of $.01 per
message. End-users with measured rate services (eg, cellular) can also
reach similar loads with little effort. But due to the variables and
competitive concerns, you'll probably have to go door-to-door with a
non-disclosure agreement to get people to cough up their exact costs,
assuming they are tracking it.

> There has been much to-do about spam of late. Figures from Canarie show
> that SMTP transmissions account for about .5% of the volume of Internet
> traffic. This may be typical of backbone networks, or not. Commercial
> networks are jealous of revealing information of this nature.

The backbone utilization isn't going to be relevant unless it is high
enough to affect the price of offering the connection. The mailstore is
where the pressure is at. Companies and users who sink capital and time
into unnecessary maintenance have always been the victims. These costs
also have secondary effects, like permanently delaying rate reductions
(sorry your tuition went up again, but we had to buy another cluster),
which in turn affects other parties, but the bulk of the pressure is
wherever the mailstore is at.

Eric A. Hall                              
Internet Core Protocols

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