Leading ISPs sign up for Goodmail antispam service

Service will certify legit e-mail from businesses by marking it with a blue ribbon. On board are Comcast, Verizon and others.

Five of the largest Internet service providers in the U.S. plan to start charging businesses for guaranteed delivery of their e-mails, in a bid to combat spam.

Goodmail Systems, which provides a service called CertifiedEmail, announced Thursday that it had signed up Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable's Road Runner and Verizon as customers. E-mails certified using the system will be marked with a blue ribbon to show they come from a trusted source, thus bypassing spam filters--a privilege that will cost the sender a quarter of a U.S. cent per e-mail.

The voluntary plan is aimed at large corporations and financial institutions whose mass mailings are most likely to be caught in spam filters. Nonprofit groups will be able to use the service for roughly a tenth of the commercial rate.

"With spam and phishing hitting historic highs even in the last six months, we have seen the limits of technologies which attempt to filter out the bad e-mail," Goodmail's chief executive, Richard Gingras, said in a statement. "Consumers want their e-mail system to let them know which e-mail is real and safe to open and act on."

Peter Castleton, director of Verizon's consumer broadband services, acknowledged that phishing and fraud were eroding trust in e-mail as a medium. "A certification service, such as CertifiedEmail, enables us to help restore that trust and makes it easier for consumers to identify legitimate e-mail messages," he said in a statement.

According to Goodmail, seven U.S. ISPs now use CertifedEmail, accounting for 60 percent of the U.S. population. Goodmail--which takes up to 50 percent of the revenue generated by the plan--will for now approve only mail sent by companies and organizations that have been operational for a year or more. Ordinary users can still apply to be white-listed by individual ISPs, which effectively provides the same trusted status.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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