A Florida man accused of sending huge volumes of spam has been fined an unprecedented $11.2 billion by a US district court.

A lawsuit filed two years ago by the owner of a small Iowa-based ISP, CIS Internet Services, alleged that James McCalla had sent out more than 280 million spam e-mails with return addresses pointing to CIS.

The judgement handed out just before Christmas prohibits McCalla from accessing the Internet for three years, in addition to fining him a nominal sum as punishment for every e-mail he is alleged to have sent.

The spam offered the services and products and services of a number of companies that CIS has also attempted to sue since 2003. A previous judgment had fined several of them $1 billion for being party to the spam operation.

"This ruling sets a new standard, CIS owner Robert W. Kramer was reported by press agencies as saying. "Gross abusers of e-mail risk exposure to public ridicule as well as the economic death penalty."

"It's a victory for every e-mail user and every responsible ISP. It's proof our courts and Congress are committed to protecting the public."

Despite the huge size of the award, Kramer is reported as being doubtful that he will receive any of the money. This raises questions as to whether this case is really much of a blow against these spammers, or US-based spammers in general.