HVCN Policy With Respect to Comcast Email Blocking

If you have a comcast.net email address and you use HVCN, you should read this page.

What is Comcast Doing?

Comcast has introduced a new policy for dealing with spam. They want to protect their users from spam, for which we cannot blame them, but one has to be careful about spam filters, and make sure that they do not remove valid legitimate mail that users really do wish to see. This is where Comcast has failed.

Comcast's new policy is to block ALL mail from sites from which they have detected a certain amount of spam. The spam that is detected sometimes does not even originate on the blocked site, but rather is forwarded at the request of the end user. This is the case with HVCN, since we do not generate any spam at all. The offense committed by us in this case was merely failing to filter this forwarded mail sufficiently to meet Comcast's standards. The penalty is that all mail from such a site is blocked as if it were spam. Rather than doing Comcast's users a favor, they are making it impossible for them to receive some email that they wish to receive. And to make matters worse, they are not notifying the users of the lost mail. They are simply refusing to accept it.

There is a recourse. If a legitimate mail system finds itself blocked, Comcast advises that they should call them at a special "mail abuse" telephone number. This leads through a telephone tree to an answering machine. As of Monday evening, September 4, Comcast appears to have removed the block they applied to mail from HVCN.

What Sites Are Affected?

We really don't know how many sites are being blocked at any given time. We know of a number of them that have been blocked so far. Here is a slashdot article which describes the blocking of "yourdomain.com", a system that hosts domains and forwards mail for people from those domains. Here is a Mercury News article describing how "The Well" was blocked by Comcast. Here is an article on isportal.com describing the pain and suffering of an ISP who is affected by overly aggressive spam blocking at Comcast.

Unfortunately for HVCN users, HVCN is also affected by this policy of Comcast's. We have had a significant number of episodes where Comcast will block our mail for a while, and then unblock it again. On August 29, the automated response claimed that they would no longer unblock our mail, but as of now, it appears unblocked again.


Earlier today, the blocking of mail from HVCN by Comcast had been reversed! We have taken steps to reduce the amount of spam forwarded to Comcast addresses, so were hoping the blocking will not be repeated. Unfortunately, we have just discovered that Comcast is blocking mail again. HVCN will continue to work with Comcast to remove the block that Comcast applies, and to reduce the amount of spam forwarded to their mailboxes.

HVCN Is Not The Problem

Regardless of whether Comcast is blocking HVCN at the moment, we are concerned about the users who have Comcast email addresses. Even though your mail originating on HVCN may sometimes be getting through, the possibility exists that other sites may be blocked. The sad fact is that you really have no way of knowing where else besides HVCN you may be losing mail from. There is nothing unique about HVCN in terms of its relationship to Comcast except that we are very small, so it is harder for us to make waves than for other, larger systems.

If you are unhappy with this state of affairs, we strongly urge you to complain to Comcast about the loss of important email. We know Comcast will tell you that they cannot handle your complaint. They will only accept a complaint from the site's mail system administrator. We will work with them as best we can, but this is your mailbox, so we feel you have a right to complain. Help them to understand that they are not doing you any favors when they remove good mail along with the spam.

HVCN's Policy

HVCN has regretfully decided that it can no longer accept comcast.net email addresses to forward unfiltered mail for fixed aliases. Users with HVCN mail aliases that point to comcast.net are already intermittently losing mail sent to those addresses, because of Comcast's repeated blocking. . We are embarking on a program to find alternate email addresses to your comcast.net address, so that you can continue to use HVCN's free services.

In particular, if you have a gmail, yahoo, msn, aol, or similar alternate email address, or if you can receive email at your business or office email address, or if you have a mail forwarding system available, such as the kind made available by alumni associations, professional societies, and other organization, then you should consider replacing your comcast.net address on HVCN with one of these.

If you do not, then we strongly urge you to get an email address outside of Comcast if you can. One of the best providers of free email mailboxes appears to be gmail (a free service of Google). Their spam filtering is excellent -- much better than HVCN can provide. If you absolutely must use a comcast address, we will want to use SpamAssassin software on HVCN in order to reduce the amount of spam that is forwarded to Comcast, since this spam puts all mail delivery from HVCN to Comcast at risk. If you need help setting this up, or have questions about our policy, please write webmaster@hvcn.org.

Mailing Lists on HVCN

Mailing lists on HVCN are similarly affected by this Comcast policy. If you have subscribed to a mailing list hosted by HVCN using a comcast.net email address, we encourage you to unsubscribe it, and subscribe an alternate email address. Even an address that forwards mail ultimately to comcast.net is likely to work just fine. If you leave a comcast.net address subscribed, we will do our best to make sure that it continues to work, but we cannot guarantee it because here at HVCN we have no control over what Comcast elects to do in their spam blocking campaign.

Last modified September 5. 2006 (9:20 pm)