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Friday, 26 January, 2001, 17:44 GMT
Unmetered access: your views
BT, Freeserve, AOL logos
BBC News Online users remain unhappy with service
It comes as little surprise that most people are overwhelmingly in favour of the idea of having unmetered internet access.

But the clear impression from the hundreds of emails received on Friday is that service standards leave a lot to be desired.

It is extremely annoying and the disconnections sometimes cause a computer crash, losing information and sometimes hours of work

Brian Rowe

The majority view was that things are better now than they were a year or so ago.

But they are still a long way short of their advertised quality.

On specific services, the largest number of complaints was about Freeserve, the UK's largest internet service provider.

Booted off

Users said they found it difficult to get connected to the service in the early evening, and also that they kept getting booted off.

A typical view came from Brian Rowe, who said: "I have been a subscriber to Freeserve off-peak service for six months. First time connection has been a very rare event.

The only downside is a near-constant engaged tone around 7pm

Stuart Blaney

"Normally three to six attempts are required to establish a connection. When connected ... the system attempts to throw you off and close the connection all the time.

"It is extremely annoying and the disconnections sometimes cause a computer crash, losing information and sometimes hours of work."

A similar view came from Alan Sykes, from Scotland, who said: "I subscribed to Freeserve Unlimited for my wife as I work away. It was awful getting cut off, no access except at unearthly hours. Never again."

Early evening problems

However there were some defenders of Freeserve. Dr Andrew Sithers said: "I've never had a problem with it (Freeserve Unlimited) - although it can get a bit busy at evenings, but you simply redial."

One of the common complaints for all ISPs was that the chances of getting connected to the internet plunged at about 7pm in the evening.

Gordon Kennedy, another Freeserve user, said: "At the start I had no problems connecting, but now it can take up to 20 retries or 10 minutes before getting a connection especially on week nights."

We've had it here for ages... It's great... Surprised it has taken so long to get... in the UK

BB, Australia

Stuart Blaney said: "I am an AOL member and find their unmetered service fine. The only downside is a near-constant engaged tone around 7pm. I almost always get connected at some point though."

Long-time AOL customer Michael Smith says that his service quality had "gone downhill" since it launched an unmetered service. He said "it's very difficult to actually get online, and you get booted out regularly".

Alan Ball said: "I am with BT and I find it hard to get connected, and when I succeed I usually get cut off, this is very annoying."

Dee Bishop, from Wales, believes that unmetered internet access is the way of the future - but warns that more demand will "seriously burden the current infrastructure".

There were mixed views about cable rivals Telewest and NTL, both of which were the subject of complaints about delays in getting subscribers online last year.

Australian surprise

It was not all doom and gloom.

Erika Endlein said: "I am very happy with the unlimited unmetered service I am getting from AOL. I no longer have to worry about phone bills and extra fees for use of the internet."

Graham Lyons said: "I have been using the BT package of fixed price unlimited for evenings and weekends since it was launched. I have had no problems with it at all and will continue to use it."

I use BT Surftime with Freeserve which gives me unmetered off-peak access. I have had no problems using it... (it's) great, all my family use it

Mervyn Hing

And Mervyn Hing says: "I use BT Surftime with Freeserve which gives me unmetered off-peak access. I have had no problems using it... (it's) great, all my family use it."

The overall impression was that the UK was still moving too slowly towards offering mass market high quality, affordable unmetered internet access.

As BB from Australia put it: "We've had it here for ages... It's great... Surprised it has taken so long to get... in the UK."

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See also:

26 Jan 01 | Business
Fixed price surfing arrives
08 Nov 00 | Business
AOL: Unmetered web access for all
24 Jan 01 | Business
The cost of getting connected
08 Jan 01 | Letter From America
The magic of the internet?
17 Jan 01 | Business
BT pay phones play the internet game
01 Oct 98 | Sci/Tech
BT clicks into Net access
13 Nov 00 | Business
UK web access breakthrough
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