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It is estimated that there are over 11 million home internet Users in the UK, that’s approx every 1 in 5 of the UK population is online. Whilst it is far cry from the online User statistics in USA where every 1 in 2 is online there is no doubt this trend is increasing, but can the Internet service providers (ISP’s) cope with demand?
There have been many ISP’s come and go offering free access at various times, but only the larger companies seem to have survived such as NTL, BT internet, AOL etc. All of these ISP’s promise to deliver a fast reliable unlimited 24/7 internet access with a paid for monthly fee. So just how fast and reliable are they..? This is my experience of using NTL as an ISP over the last 8 months.
I joined NTL’s unlimited 24/7 ISP service in September 2000 after the demise of the wonderful Lineone /Quip (which was £5 a month! sounds unbelievable now!). At that time there was not as much choice in terms of price and flexibility of usage as there is today. I had a choice of joining BT surf which was free only off peak or 1p/min during peak hours or Freeserve..which I wasn’t keen on due to the reliability/connection problems facing that ISP. So I thought I would try NTL’s 24/7 unlimited internet package.
Types of internet access via 56 modem NTL provide:-
Firstly you need to establish if NTL are in your area this can be done by visiting website and entering your post code. NTL are not in my area but as I am a BT customer I can still use the service. This opinion relates to 56K V90 dial-up access, not broad band etc-that is under a separate ciao category.
1) If NTL are not in your area, you can still use NTL for internet usage providing you are a BT customer and pay a monthly £15, agreeing to spend £15 per month on phone calls via NTL- all internet calls are free. You would be sent a NTL adapter to divert your phone calls via NTL instead of BT. They charge £10 for an adapter, though I managed to waiver that charge as I have been a long standing Cable & Wireless telephone customer for many years and had already purchased an adapter. Many of you will know Cable & Wireless have been taken over by NTL and are known as NTL. So former Cable & Wireless telephone customers do not get them to debit money from you twice for an adapter you have already paid for! I asked for my £10 installation charge to be refunded.
2) If NTL are in your area there was an option of taking out an NTL starter package at £9.25 month, this includes a telephone line (so the £9.25 a month would be equivalent to line rental) and a selection of basic TV channels. Please see NTL's website for CURRENT details (in cabled areas)
REGISTERING FOR THE DISC
You can register for the disc online or via the specially designated freephone (0800) number. I had pre-registered for AltaVisa’s promised unlimited internet access for £60 around March. Sadly Altavista’s business deal never reached fruition and the CEO resigned! It was around this time NTL made an announcement of their unlimited internet service around March 2000. I decided to register for the disc in April 2000, although I was still enjoying Lineone’s £5 a month access. My bright pink disc arrives 3 months later as demand was so high at that time! I eventually ended up receiving 3 discs! Sad thing is I could not forward those discs to another waiting User as they are pre-registered to my nmae with a unique password. Latest waiting times for the disc were 2 weeks about a month ago. I decided to install the disc only after Lineone withdrew their service in September.
Installing the disc was easy- you are asked to call a local rate (0845) number to complete registration. I got a friendly helpful person to guide me through the set up which only took about 5-10 mins. I soon found the purple and green NTL logo installed on my desktop waiting to go! This number is only for completing registration so I did not find it busy and my call was answered promptly.
Logging in to NTL has mostly been a straight forward first time connection for me, I will discuss this later. One thing I must mention is NTL’s homepage is one of the most boring I have ever seen and leaves a lot to be desired. The page consists of the usual News, Sports Channels and also a place where you can keep up to date with your account.
This area of “my account” is not very clear in fact it took me a few weeks to find out how to access it to display all the information. Under your account you can check your telephone bill and usage summary relating to your monthly telephone usage using NTL’s 3-2-1 telephone package. The 3-2-1 package is exactly what it says that means its 3p/min peak time (compare that to BT’s 8.43p/min), 2p/min evening and 1p/min weekends. To be able to see a breakdown of itemised calls, you have to click on the monthly date you are interested in then you will see the types of calls made e.g. National, International, etc. and a breakdown itemised calls made in each category. For example this month I have only made £3.88 of phone calls via NTL that leaves me with a credit of £11.12 worth of phone calls I can make for free, as NTL deduct £15 anyway for internet whether you manage to make any telephone calls or not.
The other features NTL package offers in addition to free phone calls are: · 10Mb website space · 5 e-mail addresses · online help · 24 hour technical support at £1/min!!
When I first started using this service I always got connected first time. You get cut off after 2 hours, though you can re-connect immediately. If you a serious gamer or downloading a lot this can be nuisance. I had originally suggested in this opinion you try BT internet “BT anytime” at 14.99 which apparently did not cut you off after 2 hrs, though don't get the free £15 of phone calls! But now at time of update in 2003 BT do cut you off after 2 hrs AND if you use the internet at "anytime" for unlimited use as the service name suggests they even write to customers saying they are using the service too much and that oif they dont reduce the online time they will be cut off! This has happened to several friends of mine. Another thing is if you remain “idle” for 5 minutes you will cut off. You must keep modem activity going, otherwise it will think you are idle! When I first got NTL I wondered why it disconnected every 5 minutes, now I know why. There IS a way round this make sure you keep your Pc modem busy, I often open a messenger or Napster etc, which keeps the modem busy and I find then I do not get disconnected for being idle for 5 minutes. I do not suffer from 5 min disconnects anymore.
My connection speed on a 56K V90 modem was around 46,000 or 35,000 on a bad day. Please note connection speeds are dependant on a number of factors, i.e. firstly the quality of your phone line in your area, the number of Users on the server, even how many telephone extensions you may have, or even if the modem plugged in via a long trailing extension lead, all these can influence your connection.
As mentioned I always got connected first time, however recently as the number of Users have rocketed I quite often do not connected first time, and my modem has to redial, this is particularly the case at weekends when usage is high! On average it redials about 2-3 times.
TIPS ON HOW TO INCREASE YOUR CONNECTION SPEED (for FREE)
As I mentioned connection speeds depend on where you live and the quality of your phone line etc..but is there anything you can do to increase your speed? And I don’t mean by using those download programs of the net. Well I increased my connection speed from 46,000 to 50,666 (even 52,000 on a good day!) This can be done by increasing the GAIN on your phone line. By default the gain on telephone line is set to 0, this can be increased by asking your telephone provider to increase it to a maximum of 4 (the max. it can be set at is 12, but for all voice/telephony calls to go through it has to be 4.0). I asked BT (dial 151) to increase my GAIN and it worked a treat. Don’t worry for once this is a FREE BT service and I have to say it is the best thing BT could ever have done for me.
Well with all good things there has to be a downside and I am afraid this is it – customer support is poor. For example I had a problem with my NTL mail inbox it was not receiving or sending mail. I e-mailed customer support (using another e-mail address) and I received those auto-reply, to which I explained that all my settings are correct and sent a mail. This went on for 3 months, in the end I was so fed up I had to call that dreaded £1 a min technical support number it cost me almost £7! The matter was resolved, the irony is just after I telephoned the premium rate tech. Number I received the exact reply/answer to my problem via e-mail, so I could have avoided that painful technical support. Having said this, I have only had to call this number once and considering you get £15 of free phone calls and unlimited internet its not bad, but definitely needs improving.
Overall, if you are not a complete novice with the internet and would enjoy getting to make free £15 worth of phone calls a month it may be worth considering this 24/7 unlimited ISP if you are a BT customer. If NTL are in your area then you get the internet free 24/7 for £9.25 including line rental and various TV packages. It may not be the best ISP around, but is definitely good value for money with reasonable connection and reliability so far.
please visit website for daily updates www.ntlworld.com
a 'personal' opinion of connoisseur_haggler an opinion for uk_ciao 2001, using NTL via a BT line.
*** UPDATE 2004: I have had to amend the rating I have given to NTL from 4 stars to 2 stars purely on the grounds that the customer service and ability to communicate or even contact the relevant department to close an account is almost impossible! I closed my NTL account after almost 4 years in Dec. 2003, result - 6 months later NTL are still billing me, dspite me being disconnected, outrageous! Check out the SCREAM discussion forums about NTL too for further User comments and problems.
Summary: Ntl are good value for money BUT and this is a BIG BUT if you want to LEAVE its a nightmare even after a year or 4 years the customer services and Call centre is in a MESS! NTL CEO please sort this out -it will push customers away sooner than you think!
E review. I Exactlly agree with you & Story_Weaver really. Their customer support is crap whenever anything goes wrong. Ian
Story_Weaver 02.06.2004 16:43
Agree with everything you say about NTL. I have been a customer of theirs for a couple of years. To be fair I thing what they provide is good, and exceelnt value for money. The downside , as you say, is the customer service. I recently had a problem with my cable TV. I phoned for 10 consequtive days. The phone rang for 35 mins each time and then I got 'the other person has cleared'. Infuriating or what!! I then wrote to them to tell them NOT to bill me for the 2 weeks I was without a TV signal. Still waiting for a response, and a bill. Sense trouble ahead. Their billing dept is crap as well. Well written and infromative op. Mark