www.HellOnEarth.com"contentious content since 1998"

Banned From HostPro

On December 17 2000, quite unexpectedly, the time to change hosts arrived again. The short version: HostPro threw me off their server. Even though I didn't violate any usage agreement, their Customer Service decided to terminate me.

What The Hell Happened?

On December 6th 2000, a message from HostPro Customer Support showed up in my inbox, asking me to remove certain "negative comments" about HostPro from my server. Rather startled, I called them to figure out the reason behind this request. [ click here for the full e-mail exchange ]

The customer representative, one K. Meister, quoted a phrase off my site, which apparently was the source of the objection. He also mentioned that he was not authorized to make any decisions in this matter, this was up to his supervisor Laura (no last name given).

When I wanted to discuss the issue, he told me that he would prefer to conduct this exchange by e-mail, "for your convenience". Laura, as it happened, was unavailable at the moment.

A bit flustered, I edited the page in question. First, I removed the offending phrase, which ran:

"Apparently, the technical support representative thought that he is dealing with a complete moron -- which might not be too far off the mark, given that I chose HostPro in the first place."

(If you want to be a pedant, you could argue that I wasn't insulting HostPro in the first place, but myself.)

Then I removed the e-mail address of the technician whose quote had prompted the remark -- even though this had not been requested. I also rephrased some statements about the service and added a paragraph describing that after that, I didn't really have relevant problems with HostPro. Finally, I changed a sub-heading titled "HostAmateurs" to "HostProfessionals".

After completing these tasks, I asked HostPro whether this sufficed. It didn't -- Mr. Meister insisted that I either remove any mention of HostPro or risk termination of my account. He also claimed that my site I had no "serious problems since said incident, yet on the site there is no mention of that" -- even though there was explicit mention of this in the paragraph I had added.

A fruitless exchange followed: I asked to be put in touch with somebody in a position to make decisions in this matter. It didn't happen. I asked for them to explain their problem with the comments. It didn't happen. I repeatedly asked for a compromise solution. They offered none; HostPro was adamant that all comments regarding to HostPro

Even when I requested to see the contractual terms and conditions according to which they were allowed to terminate me (the alluded to these terms and conditions, but I couldn't find them anywhere on HostPro's site), there was no reply forthcoming. [ they're here, btw ]

On December 12, I was e-mailed a notice of termination -- they gave me 30 days to find a new host. Initially, I considered just granting their request and getting on with my life. But removing the page would have meant an act of voluntary censorship, and this would have set a dangerous precedent.

What if Mr. Meister or his supervisor would next decide that they didn't like the section with the burning bunnies and that it would have to go?

I contacted HostPro's Press Relations on December 14 to ask them whether they really wanted to take this course of action. One Mr. Jakobsen replied immediately and wanted to talk, but he didn't reply to my response. [ click here for the full e-mail exchange ]

After brief deliberation, I decided to move to Puretec, a German provider who assured me that it wasn't enough to criticize them in a civilized manner for them to throw me off their server.

Within five days, they had moved hellonearth.com from Network Solutions to an independent domain name registrar and set the DNS server change in motion. As I write this, on December 17, 2000, mail is already arriving at the new POP server, the site is live at the new address and I'm a moderately happy camper.

Wanted: "Laura's" last name, for my records.