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UK Web services getting worse – official

Study finds one-in-10 connection attempts fail

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Complaints from users that service levels at Dixons' Freeserve aren't up to scratch have been confirmed in the first official benchmark of ISP performance in the UK. Freeserve is among five ISPs -- BT Connect to Business, Cable & Wireless Communication Services, NETCOM Internet and Telinco Business Communications are the other four -- to have performed worse than the industry average. Although Web monitoring company Inverse Network Technology looked at many different aspects of Net access, it is the call failure rate for dial-up access between 6pm and midnight -- the time most home users log onto the Net -- that is the most damning. According to Inverse, one in ten of all attempts to log onto the Net failed -- an increase of 50 per cent in the last three months. But this is just the average and Freeserve, now the UK's most popular ISP, and the four other named ISPs all performed worse than this. Unfortunately, Inverse refuses to say who only faired marginally worse than the one-in-ten -- and which ISP is likely to be engaged four times in every ten attempts to log onto the Net. The findings support anecdotal evidence from many disgruntled Net users that service levels in the UK simply aren't what they should be and, if anything, are getting worse. One of the reasons for the decline is that ISPs are unable to keep pace with the rapid growth of Net usage in the UK. Ironically, it is the very success of the subscription-free services such as Freeserve that have also contributed to the strain on ISPs making them, in effect, victims of their own success. "The higher call failure rates are largely attributable to the enormous growth of Internet take-up over the past six months in the UK," said Peter Dove, MD of Inverse's European operation. "This has undoubtedly put a lot of pressure on ISPs' network capacity," he said. At the other end of the scale, BT ClickFree topped the list of speedy providers closely followed by Virgin Net and MSN. Although asked to comment on the findings, no one from Freeserve was prepared to say anything until they'd seen a copy of the report, UK Benchmark Ratings -- State of the UK Internet. ®

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