The merging of the telecom companies, for a reputed $16 billion, will combine the 140 organizations or networks that use SBC to spam with around 40 who use AT&T. While the takeover is being finalised commentators believe that neither company will be able to remove spammers hosted on their networks.
"It's a reasonable supposition that, because of due dilligence and the need to keep the financial situation stable neither company will be able to act against spammers," said Scott Hazen Mueller, chairman of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (Cause). "Broadly speaking, any merger creates chaos and the spam situation may well get worse in the preliminary period before it goes through."
Even when the deal is finalised, some believe the situation will not improve.
"The spam problem wouldn't exist if it weren't for the ISPs," said Steve Linford, director of anti-spam organisation Spamhaus. "There are some that manage spam well, the problem with this deal is that AT&T were one of a few who turn the heat up."
Linford is worried that AT&T's standards may slip if their working abuse department comes under the umbrella of the less responsive SBC. Traditionally working abuse departments at ISPs are responsible for cleaning up the spam problem. But ISPs stand to make millions from hosting spammers, so the level at which they respond to the problem varies greatly. Although many have sought to clean up spam by closing port 25 and taking action against unsolicited emails, Linford argued the problem could be cured if ISPs were more active.
"We have cases of certain companies that were high on our list of top 10 worst spam service ISPs. When we alerted them to this they addressed the problem but only to the extent that they now sit just outside the top ten," he said.
SBC exectives recently said that 13,000 jobs were likely to disappear as a result of the merger. They did not confirm whether anyone from AT&T's working abuse department would be lost.
SC tried to contact SBC but received no comment.