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Click-and-nowt disease travels to Ireland

Thousands of excessive' Net users kicked off

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Updated Nearly 3,000 Net users in Ireland have been kicked off the Esat NoLimits service for "excessive use" in an exact mirror of what happened in the UK last year.

We have had around 50 emails from very angry Reg readers in Ireland, many of who claim they were given no warning that they were about to be kicked off. Others have received a letter that states: "Having analysed our customer usage pattern of our IOL NoLimits service, it has come to our attention that some of our customers are using this service excessively. This over-usage puts considerable pressure on service capacity and affects overall quality of the service for all of our IOL No Limits customers."

The letter then informs the receiver that they are one of these over-users and their Internet access will be cut off from the end of next month. It does offer customers the chance to move to a premium-rate service called IOL Gold (and a special discount if people switch before the end of June), which it claims will work out cheaper than free products if you are a heavy Internet user.

The No Limits service cost £20 a month and offered users Internet access from 6pm to 8 am on weekdays and for the whole weekend. The Gold service normally costs £120 a year - not cheap. Esat Fusion said it plans cut off 2,600 users at the end of the month. However, following heavy criticism, the ISP has partially reconsidered and promised not to cut off users (yet) that are on the Internet for 75 hours or less a month - about two-and-a-half hours a day.

It was also keen to point the finger at the Irish equivalent of BT, Eircom, for refusing to cut line charges, thus making the No Limits package unprofitable.

This is almost an exact re-run of last year's "unlimited access" debacle in the UK. The fault lies 50:50 between ISP and phone network owner. BT/Eircom are not renowned for their generosity and will charge the maximum they can get away with (being a monopolist has its advantages).

And in another re-run of the UK situation, Eircom is foot-dragging with the rollout of broadband connections and the regulator, ODTR (Office of the Director of Telecommunications Regulation), is giving it too easy a time. It has also seen its share price suffer in the last year or so.

Equally ISPs have leapt into offering unlimited access with too little thought. The golden dream of huge customer bases, fuelled by frenzied competition, has made many an ISP lose its head. And when it starts costing too much money, they have no choice but to cut off users and pretend it's the customers' fault.

In case you hadn't worked it out, the one person that loses here is the customer - the person who was willing to pay a lump sum each month for access to the Internet.

What's that phrase about being condemned to repeat mistakes? ®

Update

We've had a number of readers disputing some of the figures in the original story. They were right and we have changed them. As far as we know though, it is 2,600 people that are due to be kicked off.

Also, a small but significant detail that we missed: the strange behaviour exhibited by Esat may well have something to do with the fact that BT bought the company last year.

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