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Victim of its own success or of inept market planning? Whichever way you look at it NTL has badly underestimated demand for its free Internet service. The company has admitted that there is at least a two month backlog of applications still to be processed.

Meanwhile, frustrated customers are sharing CDs around while they wait for their own registration packages to arrive. The trouble is, doing this will get them automatically booted off the system, according to technical types at NTL.

A spokeswoman for the company said: "Once you get your CD, it is registered exclusively to your telephone number and corresponding pin number. If you were to try and access your account from another telephone, your account would be shut down automatically. It is actually a breach of the terms and conditions."

Our sources say that as many as 500 users have been kicked off the service in this way, with as many as 29 individual telephone accounts trying to access the Internet using the same CD and details. NTL was unable to confirm these figures.

NTL is not the only company to be having trouble with free Internet services. The Advertising Standards Authority says that it has received over 60 individual complaints about unmetered Internet access advertisements. Other companies causing trouble include RedHotAnt, Liberty Surf and Excite.

NTL says that it has been in correspondence with the ASA over the matter and has withdrawn the advertising campaign. NTL's spokeswoman also said that following comments made by the ASA in the press, it is writing to the organisation seeking clarification over whether or not an official investigation has been launched.

No one at the ASA was available for comment at the time of writing.®

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