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I'm writing this looking back on a review I posted here in September 2005 about my ISP at the time - and unfortunately, still my ISP as I write this - because I'm at the end of my tether with this company! I apologise if this seems like a rant, but I think people should really know how bad this ISP has turned in recent years. If you don't manage to make it to the end, that's fine, but please don't sign up with Supanet or let anyone you know get attracted by their very competitive prices.
A bit of history
If you've ever had a Time (or Tiny) computer, the name Supanet will probably ring a bell. Time - who later bought Tiny after they went into administration - preloaded all their new PCs with Supanet dial-up internet access which really marked the beginning of Supanet as a major ISP. Time and Tiny have since barely survived, however with the influx of new customers, Supanet has thrived.
I've been a Supanet customer since I bought a Time PC around eight or nine years ago. It, of course, came preloaded with Supanet software and having been offered a very interesting signup deal (of which I can't remember the details now), we switched from our old ISP (AOL) to Supanet. As far as I can remember, it was painless. The afternoon after buying the PC, I was connected to the internet. All good so far.
In late 2004/early 2005, after an enquiry accidently became an order, I ended up with a USB modem at my door and a subscription to Supanet's 512kbps ADSL Service. Not being able to face the cancellation fee of the twelve month contract I'd ended up in, I decided I would trial broadband. Being a constant user of dialup internet, it wasn't that much more expensive than what I was used to paying, at about £20 a month. They provided everything I would need to get started and held my hand through the whole setup process, even though I found myself having to go out and buy a couple of micro-filters for my other telephones.
Not long later, 1mbps services were activated at my exchange, and Supanet phoned me up and offered me that service for no extra cost. Even though I had to spend 10 minutes on a foreign premium phone line to get my new details (you would have thought they would be able to send me them through the post) as they'd changed my login name, I was setup the next week with a very stable and fast 1mbps connection with unlimited bandwidth.
I had one or two minor issues with downtime and problems with my exchange, which Supanet sorted with a bit of persuasion, but over the 18 months that followed, I can't recall ever having more than a couple of days of downtime.
The upgrade to ADSL Max (8mbps)
Having supanet.com as my homepage meant that I became aware of the new packages that emerged from Supanet. Last year, faster services started springing up, offering various packages with different bandwidth limits and connection speeds and there was a huge drop in their prices. I got an e-mail about 3 months later that my 1mbps unlimited package was expiring and that I would have to upgrade to one of their current services if I wanted broadband access, so I selected the package which was around the same price as what I was paying at the moment: £18.99/m for 8mbps with 10gb of bandwidth. Although I wasn't keen on the idea of having limited bandwidth, the fact that the unlimited option was £24.99 encouraged me to improve my downloading habits.
When they lowered the price of their unlimited package to £14.99, I jumped at the opportunity. The problems started from about this point onwards. Once again they changed my login details, requiring a phone call to their premium number to retrieve them, which I wasn't too impressed about. I'd have thought they would have sorted this by now!
It was late last year when I started to begin to see why Supanet can offer their broadband at such low packages. My internet connection crawled to a halt and I was getting less than 1kbps (for those who don't know, that's about a quarter of the typical DIAL-UP speed). When the problem didn't resolve itself by the evening, and the Supanet.com site (when it finally loaded) didn't mention any problems with its service, I yet again phoned their premium number and tried to find out what was wrong. After being led through all the troubleshooting, which took the best part of about 15 minutes, I was put onto a higher level of tech support who informed me that I was on a 'bandwidth-shaping' profile. Not really understanding what the implications of this were, I asked what this was and why it was affecting me.
In short, bandwidth-shaping is Supanet's way of punishing you for making use of your unlimited connection. When you exceed a certain amount of gigabytes of downloads, they switch you over to this network which gives you the absolute minimal download speed which is barely enough to load a webpage an hour, let alone make any use of it. As someone who was fairly reliant on the internet, I found it completely unacceptable and demanded that I be switched back, to be told that it wasn't possible and the system would do it automatically - but not soon, because it was the weekend. I didn't know that computers took the weekend off too!
I should have asked to move there and then, but I got the stupid idea in my head that it was probably a one off. They'd been good to me for so long, right? I went searching the internet to see if anyone else had this problem and to my surprise, it seems like everyone and their missus has had this problem at some point in the past. It seems like 30GB is the limit per month, and I was on 33GB that month. I wouldn't mind so much if they made this fact publically available, but I can't even find it in the Acceptable Usage Policy which in my book looks like I'm paying for a service I'm not receiving!
Having resolved this issue - even if only by waiting it out - I had a working internet connection for about 2 months when problems began again. Internet pages were taking a long time to load. Déjà vu? I ran a speed test and checked my download counter to make sure everything was normal, and it was. I was getting a fairly respectable 3.5mbps download speed and I had only downloaded 11GB this month - so what now? Speedtest.net found the problem for me, my ping/latency was over 500ms (about 10x as much as you'd expect) which in laymen's terms means it takes half a second for a web server to respond to my request for a page, let alone send it to me. Reluctantly, I phoned Supanet support AGAIN to be told that it wasn't a problem and that's perfectly normal. Yeah, right.
I hit the forums once again and found that this was another common problem that people were having. Turns out that Supanet was in the process of switching their infrastructure to some newer and more stable technology and anyone still stuck on the old one was getting horrendous latency and sometimes poor download speeds. I got a tip from a member of one of the forums I checked out, and was told that they are only switching people over in advance who complain about it. I figured having to put up with this problem for over a month was enough, and I phoned Supanet again and explained about having read about this on a forum. The man on the other end denied all knowledge of it, and seemed pretty eager to cut me off. I tried again and got through to another individual, this time I explained that I had been told about this 'switchover' from a previous call to tech support and he seemed happy to push me through in advance of the planned upgrade time.
This time, I've had enough
Three days ago, my internet connection went down with no notice. Having tried and tried again to connect with no luck, and not being able to bare fighting with technical support again, I went to my nearest public internet hotspot and checked out the Supanet website. Their service status indicator indicated there was a scheduled maintenance and people may not be able to connect for up to 24 hours. Thanks for letting me know, Supanet. If someone can explain to me the value of sticking that message there when the maintenance is underway, I'd love to hear it. An e-mail in advance would have been handy, or even a letter detailing the scheduled maintenance, but leaving users without internet access for 24 hours without a prior warning is a disgrace.
It was 36 hours before I got internet access back, with no update from Supanet, but surprise surprise, more problems. I've got packet loss of about 30% - 80%, meaning that most webpages won't load without seven or eight attempts, e-mail is a definite no, and I must be mad if there's any way that the likes of Windows Live Messenger or Skype is going to load. In fact, I'm probably going to have to go down to the WiFi hotspot just to get this review on the internet.
There's no way I'm going to phone technical support again. The degradation in the service they've provided over the years is represented well by their technical support. They're very reluctant to help, and I've learnt that "We'll phone you back shortly" should be taken as "You'll have to phone again tomorrow". I'm always polite to them, after all, I'm sure it's not very pleasant having to deal with frustrated Supanet users every day, but every time I've been firm with them, I've been cut off. When ringing back, I've asked to speak to the manager who funnily enough always seems to be the person I get connected to (even though they're clearly a different person to the last).
Enough of the rant; let's find something good about Supanet
This will be a tough one.
When signing up for Supanet's broadband package, I got given 100mb of free web space to introduce their new web hosting services. Not really that useful when you consider the fact that there are free webhosts around offering 20x that much, but still a welcome addition.
Their online e-mail client is quite snappy and responsive, if you have a utility to block advertisements in your browser. It's useful when you're away from home, but it's nothing more than what I'd expect from a modern ISP. They only offer you 20mb of space for emails though, and even though it's enough for me, if you're reliant on the online webmail you're probably going to find it fills pretty fast if you don't delete your old mail. When you consider services such as Live Mail and Google Mail can offer several gigabytes of free storage, it's pretty poor.
Why am I still with Supanet?
I am a loyal Supanet customer and even though I've had multiple opportunities to switch to another ISP, I've lived with Supanet as my internet provider for close to a decade now. According to the customer support, the twelve month contract only gives you the opportunity to exit from the contract once a year, without paying the cancellation fee which is £40 even though their site claims that it's only applicable if you cancel in the first 24 months. If I fail to return the cheap USB modem that was sent to me when I first got broadband four years ago - that's the box, booklet, cables, software and everything else - they'll add another £30. The modem itself is probably worth £10, at best. Almost as expensive to migrate away as it is to stay with them for another year.
On top of that, I've read that Supanet are attempting to charge for the MAC code which is required to switch ISPs. Although not 100% sure, I believe that this may be illegal now, so I'd be very interested if they still try it. Either way, asking for my MAC code has worked well as a threat when phoning technical support, so it will be interesting to see how they react when the time comes for me to request it (not long now, I hope!)
I've completely changed my opinion of Supanet from when I wrote that review in 2005. What was once a superb example of what one should expect from a modern ISP, Supanet is now a complete disaster. It feels like anyone who has a good thing to say about this company is one in a million. It's a disgrace that they treat one of their most loyal customers like this and I really regret not trying to move away from Supanet years ago.
I'm not sure where Supanet went wrong. Did they accept so many customers that they're working above capacity? Have they cut corners too much in order to provide the lowest price possible? Personally, I attribute it to trying too hard to be what they are not. At the end of the day, Supanet is an ISP providing internet connectivity to home users and small businesses, and they should stick to that, they did a good job at it at some point! If you go onto Supanet's site now, you'll find them offering hosting packages and telephone packages - why couldn't they have stuck with what they did well at without having to offer everything under the sun at the expense of poor customer service and quality of service of the end product!
Perhaps the only attractive thing about Supanet is the price. It's really easy to be attracted to Supanet by the cost of their services, which is probably the lowest I've ever seen by quite a large margin, but the saying 'you get what you pay for' comes to mind. Their pricing scheme must exist just to replace the masses of users who decide to run away, even at the expense of the £40 cancellation fee. If you're a user that doesn't mind possible downtimes and occasionally waiting a while for pages to load, Supanet won't be too bad. For anyone who needs some reliability in their provider or likes multimedia online, such as YouTube, you'll find Supanet unbearable. For me personally, not knowing whether or not I'll be able to go online tomorrow is a big problem.
Thanks for reading.
Segments of this review may appear on my personal website, www.armedpineapple.co.uk and on DooYoo under the same name.
My old review of Supanet is archived here: http://www.armedpineapple.co.uk/2008/08/supanet/