Reg staffer cut off by 24-7 Freecall
Great business decisions of our time
Troubled UK unmetered ISP 24-7 yesterday dumped another 1000 users from its service for alleged 'abuse' yesterday, including yours truly.
It's difficult to tell precisely how I abused them, as I wasn't given the courtesy of an email telling me what was going on. The service worked yesterday and this morning it didn't.
A call to Freecall's support line revealed that I was one of the lucky recipients of the company's new zero minutes a month package, for which Freecall had debited my bank account by £19.99 just two days earlier.
Asked if there was someone I could speak to to discuss what was going on, the support operative said there was no phone number I could call and I would have to take up any complaint with backbone supplier Telia as 'it was their decision to terminate the accounts that had been using the service too heavily'.
This came as news to an exasperated Telia UK representative, who had yesterday managed to get Freecall to retract this very statement.
In a 'clarification' issued to The Register yesterday, the ISP said: "24-7Freecall would like to clarify that there are no issues with capacity or any other service from Telia UK, the backbone provider, and that this is purely an internal 24-7Freecall matter regarding the heavy users and the effect that has on the ability to provide a sustainable level of service to users."
This message has obviously not yet filtered through to the Freecall support staff, but then the company is notoriously difficult to contact. No phone number other than the tech support line appears on its website, and directory enquiries only has a number which appears to be permanently connected to a fax machine.
The email sent out to some, but not all, affected users yesterday read: "We have reached the maximum number of subscribers that we can currently safely cater for without it adversely affecting the service for all users.
"We will therefore not be accepting any new subscribers until we can increase the capacity to cope with new users.
"Sadly as a subscriber to 24-7Freecall your patterns of usage are inconsistent with the levels that we can support at this time. Your usage is causing congestion on the network that is leading to problems for thousands of other users.
"Regretfully your 24-7Freecall account has been terminated on 13th December 2000.
"No refunds will be given."
Pattern of usage
The only clear pattern of my usage of Freecall is that I've been disconnected on average every 20 minutes for the last six months that I've been a user (almost from day one of the service's introduction). There has always been a problem connecting via ISDN and earlier calls to tech support revealed that Freecall has only a handful of ISDN users. The problem was entirely Telia's, I was told - again news to the Swedish telco.
This random disconnection wouldn't have been too much of a problem had not the ISP used a strange and eldritch log on procedure involving the entry of username and password twice. This prevented on-demand dialling from working correctly on the machine I use as an Internet router. Naturally, this was Telia's fault too, said tech support.
Around two months ago, after numerous complaints, Freecall sent me a beta copy of a login script that sometimes, but very definitely not always, automatically reconnected after an interruption. I'd explained to Freecall that I didn't want a 24 hour connection and was quite happy to have the connection broken, provided it could automatically reconnect to check for new emails (about every 10 minutes), as my previous ISP, MSN, allowed me to do.
If that's heavy usage, God help the remaining Freecall users.
The good news is that Freecall boss Sal Abdin has now had a change of heart over refunding the subscriptions of the terminated users - he emailed me this afternoon (after Telia had contacted him to relate my complaint) to offer me a refund of this month's subscription within 14 days).
We assume this refund applies to all disconnected users - not just bolshy IT hacks. ®