King of Excellent (according to Scaryduck)

Friday, June 3

Service Providers.

This week I are mostly be dealing with shoddy internet service providers.

The advent of broadband has been a bit of a gold mine for me. More and more people without knowledge or experience of networking have decided that they are going to get broadband, and do very little to find out about what they are getting. When they don't get what they expect or have problems and go to phone helplines they get no joy, so they phone muggins here. So let me give you some examples.

Better known in the industry because when their poxy software crashes your PC for the umpteenth time, you cry "Eh? Oh 'Ell!" Their users make me laugh. All swear blind they never have any problems. "It's a very good service, and it's easy to use. It's nice not to have to check for email, and be told when I do have some. The safety features are second to none."
Wrong. AOL has it's own browser, which is not 100% compatible with others. This means that some webpages do not appear correctly, or when they have some sort of Java/shockwave/flash program involved it crashes explorer leaving Windows high and dry. Phone the helpline, and see what else is wrong. Yes, I know it's free, but how long are you prepared to wait? an hour? 2? As for safety, what's wrong with free packages like AVG for anti-virus, Ad Adaware for spyware, and Sygate for a personal firewall?

BT Broadband
Bastard Tossing Broadband. The reason I am writing this post. Most people go with them because they see the ads, are already with BT for the phone, and it'll be just less grief overall.
No, it'll be a pain in the arse. Many people have problems with the BT voyager modem they offer for 'free.' The drivers crash windows, sometimes even causing the bluescreen of death. BT nonchalently reply it's quite easy to fix, just download the patch from their website. How? Secondly, the £17.99 package is called BT Broadband Basic. And that's what it is. No email, no webspace, no protecion. Just the broadband connection. I spent the morning setting up someone's email on a BT Basic account after they were told they had a free email by the BT engineers ("Danny" in Delhi). Much searching for this elusive account it turns out that it's a free BT Yahoo email, that uses their webpage anyway. She wants to use Outlook express, because that's where her old emails come in from. Much searching of helpfiles with BT, setup wizards that time out or show "no page to be displayed," and even the option for an instant callback that apologises because this service is not yet available (why offer it then?). In the end I found a free smtp program. Far from perfect, but in reality it does what it says on the tin. More then BT ever would.

Freeserve/Wanadoo/whatever they want to call themselves this week
When free internet providers appeared late in 1998, they gave out millions of free CDs. The most popular one was the one offered at the largest PC supplier in Britain: PC World/Dixons/Currys. Freeserve. In their first year alone they signed up over 5 millions new users. Most of these users never used their new accounts. Some realised FS is crap, and looked elsewhere. Others just stuck with it, not realise how bad it was. Most of those accounts have been weeded out, but the reality is a lot of people still check their email on their old freeserve accounts, keeping the account active. Wanadoo took over, incorporating other countries into the quagmire, and now they have one of the slowest, most unreliable, worst supported services in the world. And people still swear by them.

So who do I recommend? When I switched over to broadband 2 years ago, my service provider (breathe) had gone tits up. I decided to look for a new provider. The reality of the search is the lesser known they are, normally the better service you get. So through contacts at the British Computer Society, I was led to ADSLGuide, a free service offered to help people find service providers. At the top, at the time, was Nildram. This company has been around since the birth of the world wide web, and even I had an email with them back in 1994 for a short time. The problem is, with their £35+ per month price tag at the time, their prices were not competitive. In the list of top 5 was an unknown company called Plus Net. I tried them, I liked them, I still use them today. What makes them so different? Well, lets ask some questions.

Do they have download limits? No, only priorities to email and surfing.
Do they cut you off regularly? No, I have stayed online non stop for 5 weeks.
Do they time out when surfing? Nope, never happened to me.
What about helplines? Are they free? No, you pay for a local call, but they aim to sort problems in minutes, not hours.
Are they more expensive then other ISPs? No, I find they are normally cheaper or at least the same price.
Do I get webspace or emails? Yes, 15Mb of webspace, and unlimited email addresses. They even have no bandwidth restriction on their webspace, as long as it's not used for business.

So there you have it. As of (hopefully) this week, I will be back on broadband. No more dialup, but 2Mb with a free modem, free installation, and all for £14.99 a month. It's even nicer when you phone up their helpline and they can already see who you are from the number you are calling from, know what the problem is because they have it logged, and know how to fix it from your end. They are patient, friendly, and concise. 99.9% of the time the person you first speak to will be the person you last speak to, no transferrence of calls. Now that's service.

I'm as happy as a pig in shit.