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LocalTel restricts free Web calls to two hour blocks

Not quite the unlimited free access that was promised…

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Embittered users of LocalTel, the telco offering free calls to ISP Screaming.Net, have reacted angrily to their free access being restricted to two hour blocks. The service restriction is the latest in a long line of problems that have plagued the LocalTel/Screaming.Net service since it began, leading to users taking direct action and threatening to lay siege to the telco's Godalming HQ if improvements weren’t forthcoming. An announcement on LocalTel's Web site said: "We have introduced (10/07/99) a two hour timeout on internet connections to screaming.net. This is a trial to improve accessability to all of our customers." It goes on to explain that this doesn't mean you can only go online for two hours, but that you can only go online in two hour blocks. Either way, this is a major reversal on the 'free unlimited access' promise made to the many thousands of subscribers who signed up for the service. Complaints of poor service are nothing new to LocalTel, and while the company's MD, Jeremy Stokes, has promised that service levels will improve, complaints keep flooding into The Register from Screamers who cannot access the service. One Screamer emailed The Register over the weekend with comments he had made to LocalTel. His note said: "Congratulations are in order guys. I have eventually managed to logon after trying for twelve and a half hours! What a service. Wait until I tell everyone that it only takes 657 attempts and 65 reboots of my PC to access your wonderful service." Another wrote saying: "It is now impossible to connect to screaming net without re dialling at least 50 to 100 times and sometimes more." And yet another disgruntled Screamer emailed The Register with this: "This, on top of the complete lack of response by LocalTel to emails, faxes, letters and phone calls is the last straw. A 24 hour boycott has been organised (see here) and an online petition set up to gather customer complaints (see here)." The Screaming.Net/LocalTel service was hindered at first by the problems some customers had swapping their phone service from BT to LocalTel. Since then, a catalogue of problems and mishaps has dogged the venture. Last week, LocalTel said it would be seeking to gain compensation from BT for delays which stopped people getting on to the Screaming.Net service. Presumably, this means the telco will sympathise with those of its customers who now feel they are owed some for of financial recompense after this latest set back in the service. Despite trying to get through all morning, The Register was unable to speak to anyone at LocalTel about this latest setback, as the line was engaged. ®

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