Savvis halted the accounts after antispam organizations notified the company that it was providing Web hosting services to known unsolicited bulk e-mailers. The spammers in question were listed on Spamhaus' Register of Known Spam Operations (Rokso), a blacklist used by many Internet services to curb spam volume on their systems.
Spam blacklists highlight one controversial front in the battle against unsolicited bulk e-mail. Blacklists are typically compiled by volunteer organizations that monitor alleged spammers, and many companies and Internet providers block those listed. These lists have come underwho allege they block legitimate businesses that do not violate U.S. laws.
All Savvis customers listed on Rokso were longtime clients of Cable & Wireless' U.S. division, which the company acquired in March this year, CEO Robert McCormick said. Further distancing himself from these clients, McCormick said Savvis would have never allowed these alleged spammers onto their Web hosting service.
"This is not a problem we created," he said in an interview. "Not a single one of these contracts were signed by Savvis."
Savvis's move came shortly after internal memos were leaked onto the Web documenting a debate among executives over how to take action. In the documents, executives weighed the merits of canceling accounts to preserve its reputation, and whether the companies in question were violating any laws to warrant action.
"Without a good reputation as a secure and honorable provider, Savvis will soon start to lose it's ability to sell to upstanding corporations and business leaders, and instead fall to its own vision of providing service to spammers and other 'unwanted's,'" Kris Kistler, Savvis' director of InfoSec and abuse, wrote in a memo.
Many network administrators, including corporate clients, use these blacklists to block spam from their systems.
One executive speculated that canceling the 40-or-so customers could cost the company between $250,000 and $2 million a month in revenue. Savvis' McCormick said the monthly cost was closer to the $250,000 end, but declined to give a solid number.
"It's an insignificant amount of revenue," he said.
CNET News.com's Stefanie Olsen contributed to this report.