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FRIACO a ‘national disgrace’ – Cloud Nine

Mud slinging gets mucky

The boss of a Basingstoke-based ISP has slammed Britain's wholesale unmetered Net access product, FRIACO, as a "national disgrace".

On Friday Emeric Miszti, the head of business-based ISP Cloud Nine, alleged that a change to the Flat Rate Internet Access Call Origination (FRIACO) platform has led to a worse service for independent ISPs while improving the service to customers of BT's mass-market ISP, BTopenworld.

In an outspoken attack against BT, Mr Miszti claims the problem is so bad he is considering a formal complaint to the telecoms watchdog Oftel.

According to Miszti, as many as one in five of his customers is unable to access the Net as a result of being blocked by busy engaged tones, name and password failures, and session drop-outs once customers are connected.

Some users have even experienced a voice on the line saying "connection unavailable".

"We are also seeing a new problem as of today where the user name and password is verified but the connection fails on 'registering name on network'," said Mr Miszti.

Cloud Nine has lodged hundreds of complaints with BT over the problem in the last three weeks but says it has not received a satisfactory response.

Said Mr Miszti: "The problems began after a major BT network 'failure' on the evening of Friday 19th October.

"Cloud Nine do not believe the BT line that there was a failure.

"We believe that changes were made to the FRIACO platform in response to complaints by BT Internet customers and we believe that these changes may have benefited BTopenworld but they have been to the detriment of all other FRIACO providers.

"BT initially tried to claim that this was because we were approaching our capacity limits. Since then Cloud Nine have since increased capacity and also taken action to suspend accounts of heavy users but, no surprise, the problems have persisted at the same levels despite the fact that we are now more than 20 per cent below capacity at most times.

"Quite frankly it is a disgraceful state of affairs when ISPs pay an expensive price for ports and the calls are not being delivered to these ports and our reputation is being damaged in the process whilst BT buries its head in the sand.

"BT have to be held to account for their failure to deliver an acceptable quality FRIACO service," he said.

Severed Links</>
However, BT maintains that it did suffer a major networking problem on October 19. A third party contractor severed 11,000 2Meg lines in Cambridgeshire causing severe network disruption.

While the problem was fixed it did take time for it to be fully resolved.

A BT spokesman described Cloud Nine's allegations that the telco is favouring its own ISP at the expense of others as "absolute nonsense" and was swift to deny any suggestion of improper conduct.

He admitted that the network problems on October 19 did hit some ISPs - but not all of them.

This is reflected in comments from Sheffield-based ISP, PlusNet, which has expressed its surprise at the "vitriol" of Cloud Nine's outburst.

It claims not to have experienced any of the failures described by Cloud Nine and is mystified at the strength of the attack on BT.

"Whilst we of course sympathise with any ISP that is experiencing service affecting problems of this scale, we simply cannot agree that FRIACO is anything but a resounding success as far as PlusNet is concerned," said Alistair Wyse, Product and Services Director of PlusNet.

"We simply are not seeing any such level of problem to our unmetered services but rather the opposite, receiving many, many compliments and testimonials in both public discussion forums and directly from our user base," he said.

In a further development over the weekend Cloud Nine now claims it has found the source of the problem and has managed to "debug a possible issue" that has been causing the major problems since 19th October.

In a statement the ISP said: "Ninety per cent of the problems we have been seeing are affecting Windows 2000 and XP customers.

"We have discovered that changes occurred to the BT Ignite platform in certain places that have rendered Windows 2000 PC's set-up with default Dial-Up Networking problems unable to dial in, generating a variety of responses ranging from total inability to dial the 0808 numbers to invalid username/password, error on registering on network, to inability to connect to servers.

"The rest of the problems (the minority) are probably related to the old issue of congested local exchanges but we are still investigating this," it said.

Cloud Nine wants BT to make a public statement about the problems and explain exactly what has been going on. ®

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