Are Progressive Listserves Arbitrarily being Blocked by AT&T?

Are Progressive Listserves Arbitarily being Blocked by AT&T?

By Caroline Vernon



A few months back, PACG (Progressive Action for the Common Good) started experiencing problems with our members dropping off our email list.  Oddly, as site administrator, I was not receiving any official bounceback notices informing me of any undelivered email with the occasional exception of a full mailbox now and again.


It wasn’t until the first of this year that I realized the extent of the problem and determined that most of our Mediacom and Yahoo users were being blocked from receiving our email. Last week I finally received a bounceback notice in my administrative inbox, with the names of almost 70 members which were”blocked for abuse”.  As it turns out, many of these members had not been receiving our email for weeks and in some cases months, so I was very concerned as to why I only recently received the bounceback notice. This indicates that the data was blocked going out and coming in.  I immediately contacted Mediacom and after much wrangling was told that the problem lies with AT&T as they manage the traffic for both carriers. A Mediacom representative actually told me we had been “blacklisted” but did not know why. I then contacted AT&T, following their recommended protocol and providing them with all pertinent information via email as no telephone number is available.


After 3 days, and no response from AT&T, I filed an official complaint with Congressman Braley’s Davenport office who in turn filed a complaint with the FCC. At that time, the FCC indicated they were receiving many similar complaints. The following day (yesterday) I received a response from AT&T which indicated that the block will be removed within 24 to 36 hours. A copy of their response is below.


I think it is important to mention that PACG has been advocating against telecom immunity within the FISA bill. We sent out many action alerts asking our members to contact their elected officials and even staged a funeral procession for the U.S. Constitution outside of Senator Grassley’s Davenport office. We were asking the Senator to vote against the bill that provided immunity, and to protect the Constitution. Channel 6 (KWQC) covered the event as did the Moline Dispatch. The related action alert that we sent out to our list was front and center on our website for many weeks.


As you may know, in January of this year, AT&T, Comcast, and others, announced that they would begin to take more aggressive steps to manage network traffic in order to minimize spam and safeguard against copyright infringement of video sharing, etc. Unfortunately, they seem to be inspecting for content other than what they have cited. PACG is an opt-in only email service. We do not send out spam or share video files although we may provide links to sites that do.


During the recent Hearing on Broadband Network Management, FCC Chairman, Kevin Martin stated,

Obviously network operators can take reasonable steps to manage traffic, but they cannot arbitrarily block access.”


There is no justifiable reason to have blocked PACG for abuse as is sited in the communication below… nor is any explanation given as to why we were classified as such.


I have since received communications from other progressive organizations who have indicated that much of their email is also being blocked. Given AT&T's response below, it seems as though they are saying this may be an ongoing problem for many listserves, and they seem to be passing the buck right back to the carriers.


If any of your organizations are experiencing similar problems, I strongly recommend that you contact your Congressperson and/or Senators to file an official complaint with the FCC.


In order to track this issue more closely, I am creating a list of all organizations who are having similar problems with delivery of their email. I can be reached at or 563-676-7580.  


Response from AT&T:



Thank you for contacting the Postmaster/Abuse team at ATT.NET and

The mail-server IP address(es) associated with your request will be
removed from the block-list within 24-36 hours from the receipt of
this letter.  ATT.NET and BELLSOUTH.NET, its affiliates, and network
services customers do NOT intentionally block legitimate mail in the
course of our anti-spam initiatives.  We regret any inconvenience this
may have caused.

Network administrators at ATT.NET and BELLSOUTH.NET closely analyze
the mail stream bound for our customers to identify sources that exhibit
the characteristics of compromised network objects or are compromised
by an offender of Acceptable Use Policies.  While a certain level of
this kind of mail is to be expected in today's internet traffic, when
this occurs above generous thresholds set by ATT.NET and BELLSOUTH.NET
system administrators, immediate and decisive action is taken to
protect our network resources.

If you submitted an IP address for removal through the administrator's
webform, or requested removal by emailing, the
administrator of the sending mail service or hosting provider is unaware
of the issue and the IP may be blocked again.  It is imperative that the
sending service or hosting provider be made aware of the issue.  Please
send this message, along with the error message to that administrator
so action may be taken to resolve the issues that caused the block.  If
you forward mail from a hosting service to your ATT.NET and
BELLSOUTH.NET mail account, read the note on forwarded mail below.

Please thoroughly check your IP logs before requesting removal.  If you
have already been removed, please examine your logs for rogue traffic,
AUP offenders, and compromised scripts or objects.  You must determine
that all traffic from the blocked IP is actually from your mail servers
to ensure your network is not compromised.  Administrators who fail to
do this may experience subsequent and more resolute blocking.

Thank you for helping the ATT.NET and BELLSOUTH.NET network combat
network abuse in all its forms.


ATT.NET and BELLSOUTH.NET Postmaster/Abuse Team

If you are forwarding mail from a vanity domain, hosting service, or
any other mail account that receives a high volume of spam, you may
be indirectly contributing to the blocking of that IP.  Forwarded spam
is still spam and should be filtered at the source to end the abuse of
network resources at the earliest point.  Users can do this by utilizing
spam filtering tools provided by the hosting service or external
Internet Service Provider before it is forwarded to your ATT.NET and


Statement of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin on Broadband Network Management Hearing:


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