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The Netherlands: DSL Heaven or Hell?

Price wars turn ugly

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In a matter of weeks the Netherlands have turned into DSL heaven, with prices dropping as low as €14.95 a month. DSL users were used to €40 and €50 plans just two months ago. Now providers and, more surprising, customers, are complaining.

In August Versatel offshoot Zon introduced its €14.95 DSL service; Wanadoo, Het Net and Tiscali soon followed with similar offers. (By compairions Tiscali UK cut-price DSL product, announced Thursday, is a meagre 150 Kbps 'broadband' package for £15.99 - €22 - a month.)

This week Dutch company Speedlinq joined the fray with Europe's first "go as you please service". There is no subscription. Users buy five gigabytes for just €22.50 and they can use that amount whenever they want.

Although providers are slashing prices, few are happy. Wanadoo Benelux director Jean Jacques de Prins this week warned that his company is not going to make any money. "We used to have the highest DSL prices in Europe, now we seem to have the lowest," he said.

Customers also complain when they discover that most offers come with strings attached. Some cut-price deals are only temporary, while others have a usage cap of 250 MB. If you exceed the data limit, you have to pay extra.

Also, many providers are unable to cope with the demand. Users are told they have to wait three months before they can get a DSL connection. The Dutch consumer watchdog says it is flooded with complaints.

KPN Telecom, by far the biggest DSL provider in the Netherlands, only offers cut price DSL through it subsidiary Het Net ("The Net'". Its main DSL providers Xs4all and Planet Internet haven't lowered prices yet. Instead, they will increase bandwidth next month.

But subscribers are still not impressed: they believe that their subscription (€52 a month) is too high compared to recent cut price offers. That's bad news for KPN and others in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe: The price can only go down, not up. ®

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