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    Highlights of the ICANNWatch Archive
    (June 1999 - March 2001)

    The Big Picture MediaOne, ATTBI, Comcast...
    posted by tbyfield on Thursday January 23 2003, @06:32PM

    Just a tad over a year ago today I wrote an item about how AT&T Broadband was forcing 630,000 users to change their email address because when it bought MediaOne it also bought the trademark-infringement suit filed against MediaOne by a Midwestern advertising company. Guess what? The Boston Globe (again) reported on January 16th that AT&T Broadband had "confirmed yesterday that its recent acquisition by Comcast Corp. will force more than 200,000 New England cable Internet modem subscribers to get their third e-mail address in barely a year." Worse still, the transition will affect up to two million subscribers nationwide in the upcoming months.

    The ICANN connection in the MediaOne/ATTBI debacle was that, despite ICANN's tiresome expostulations in the abstract (and recent amicus curiae filings in Register.com v Verio), here was a case where the security, stability, and privacy of up to 630,000 people was very directly and quantifiably affected. But this new instance is different. For starters, the domain change isn't compelled by an IPR violation; instead, Comcast bought AT&TBI, and it wants to brand those subscribers. Just like on back on the ranch: tsssssss... All two million of them.

    In the SATN blog he maintains with David Reed, Bob Frankston writes about this:

    If this story is indeed correct then it's either a fundamental misunderstanding of what email is or how it works and/or indifference to user needs. It will be far worse if ATTBI.COM gets repurposed and people get names that are on spam blocking lists and have other meanings. It's like treating phone numbers as paths through Strowger switches instead the table entries that they are. But at least with phone numbers I can understand why the carriers are willfully stalling number portability despite the proof of concept in 800 number portability and call forwarding. In the case of ATTBI it's not obvious what is to be gained by forcing such a change as opposed to simply shifting emphasis to the new alias.

    At a higher level it is just one more example of why the idea of forcing the DNS to serve the incompatible purposes of being a source of stable handles and transient commercial identifiers is so flawed. My email handle shouldn't change if my carrier switches equipment or ownership or if I move or if I change my last name. Conversely if I have an (additional) address associated with my role, that address should work to reach the person handling that function and not any particular individual. There is no real technical problem with doing this. The real difficulty is in the lack of understanding that leads to changing people's email addresses (a form of their real names) just because of some reshuffling of share ownership of corporate entities.

    These are the kinds of "user" interests that should have been -- and could have been -- represented on ICANN's board, had they not been deposed and displaced by a junta of poseurs and panderers.

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  • More on The Big Picture
  • Also by tbyfield
    This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
    MediaOne, ATTBI, Comcast... | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 7 comments | Search Discussion
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    Mission Creep
    by Anonymous on Thursday January 23 2003, @09:06PM (#11014)
    What exactly could ICANN possibly do about this? If ICANN could do anything, should it? What about "mission creep"?
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Time to Mine Whois Again
    by jberryhill on Friday January 24 2003, @08:09PM (#11023)
    User #3013 Info
    ...and shake out all of those lovely names with attbi admin contact email addresses.

    You know the drill. Find 'em. Make a whois data complaint (which the admin will never hear about), and buy your snapbacks early.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    But one can have ISP independent email
    by finee on Saturday January 25 2003, @05:57PM (#11028)
    User #2781 Info | http://www.FineE.com
    The first step is to register one's own domain. For a .com that is about $8.75 a year. Then either use an email redirection service or an email hosting company. Cost from free to about $20 / year. One can allways change the email provider by simply changing the DNS on the domain.

    I would never give an email address using somebody else's domain to personal or business contacts. If one does then one is tied down to that particular ISP. Renember when @home went bankrupt?

    And there no need for special TLD's. A simple .com will do just fine.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
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