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Time to start charging Windows users higher ISP charges?

By   |  August 28, 2003

Through an unprecedented coincidence of error and bad timing on the part of my service provider and one of the worst Windows worms ever, the past week has been one of the more difficult I have had to face since I started Tectonic. I don\’t want to go into too much detail regarding the series of errors made by my hosting provider which resulted in being suspended and my email bouncing for a good few days, except to say that it could have been resolved within 24 hours of me pointing out the problem more than two weeks ago. Of course it wasn\’t resolved and I\’m still trying to repair some of the damage.

Tectonic was re-instated late last week. Just in time for the big mail server switch my service provider had planned. Unfortunately this was planned for the same weekend that the Sobig worm was primed to dump the bulk of its payload. Of course the mail server switch-over took longer than expected and even though it was meant to be completed over the weekend, by Monday afternoon I was still struggling to get email. And many of the queued messages only arrived in my inbox early on Tuesday morning.

Of course what had happened was that while the mail server upgrade was under way, email was being held up and queued for release as soon as as everything was working again. At the same time Sobig was spamming every address it could get its virtual hands on, doubling, tripling or even quadrupling the normal volumes of email with the result that the queues were getting bigger by the second. When I called on Monday afternoon there was still more than 7gigabytes worth of email on the server waiting to be delivered. Of course this doesn\’t help me but I do feel just a tiny bit sorry for their predicament.

With everything now settled back down again I\’ve had time to reflect a little on the events of the past week and, frustration aside, it occurs to me that despite not using a Windows machine, or hosting my site on a Windows box, or using a Windows-based email client, I have still suffered the debilitating effects of the Sobig worm. And there was nothing I could have done about it except wait out the rampant attack and hope none of my email went missing in the interim. Thanks Microsoft. Very much.

There is, however, another question that begs to be asked: Who paid (or will pay) for the bandwidth that Sobig devoured? Someone has to pay for it. And it doesn\’t really matter if it is Telkom that feels the pinch initially or the ISPs or the international carriers. What you can be sure of is that we end-users will end up footing the bill. Maybe not now but perhaps in your next (sudden) subscription increase. Or in sudden telephone tariff increases. We may not have to pay up today but somewhere down the line someone will feel the pinch and the costs will be passed on to us.

So perhaps we should pre-empt this by calling for ISPs to charge Windows users a little more than they do Linux or Macintosh users, for example. My faithful Mandrake laptop wasn\’t the one spreading the worm and I wasn\’t one of the many that sent a colleague of mine nearly 14000 messages (mostly viruses or course) over the course of last weekend. 14000 emails is not to be sniffed at and frankly if my small business had 10 or so staffers that got even close to that number of viruses in just a few days and I had to foot the bandwidth bill I would not be smiling.

Or, if ISPs don\’t feel they can charge Windows users more then perhaps offer non-Windows users a discount and encourage safer (\”Trustworthy?\”) computing. I\’m not naive enough to believe Linux will never suffer serious bandwidth-chomping worms in the future but until then I would be happy to feel that I was getting a little bit of a benefit from not being one of millions of irresponsible Windows users that are polluting the wires with viruses.


One Response to “Time to start charging Windows users higher ISP charges?”

  1. Jesse Pretorius
    September 4th, 2003 @ 12:00 am

    Hi Alastair,

    There was a recent discussion on CLUG-Chat about ISP\’s now charging more due to the fact that they\’re implementing AV software more extensively.

    There were several camps – some were ok with it, others preferred to be given the choice seeing as they had their own AV software implementation which they had already spent money on.

    I thought you might be interested in reading the thread. :-)

    The starting mail is here:

    You\’ll actually need to sign up on the list – but you can always opt not to receive e-mails of each post. :-)



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