By : Wayne Brooker
great Broadband revolution in the UK is well under way,
and with almost 29.5% of all Internet connections using
broadband, xDSL or cable as of August 2004, and barely a
whiff of a problem in the media, you'd be forgiven for thinking
it's all going swimmingly. Well that's not quite true.
in March 2004 my exchange became enabled and I immediately
went to sniff out a good broadband deal. Tiscali were advertising
heavily and had certainly caught my attention. They weren't
the cheapest, but one word was keeping me interested...
stop was their support forums to see what existing users
were saying, but for reasons that are now apparent, you
needed to be a member in order to view them. Not to make
new posts, or edit your posts, you had to be a member even
to view what was going on in there!! And I don't mean you
have to sign up for their forums to see the posts, I mean
you have to have a broadband account with them.
was suspicious but figured that if anything too nasty was
going on I'd have heard, I do spend 6 hours a day scouring
the news after all!
I signed up and all was well at first. I had noticed however
that more and more disgruntled members were posting in the
forums. Headlines about Tiscali not releasing lines, taking
multiple payments, charging for services they hadn't provided
and much, much more were becoming rife.
didn't get any screenshots back then but here's a very small
selection of some of the complaints posted on the Broadband
Support Forum as of the 24th January 2005.
For my sins I didn't take much notice of all the negativity
back then. My connection was reasonably fast and I'd had
no dealings with customer support. All that changed however
when, on December 21st, I got an early Christmas present
from the Tiscali bad news fairy. It read:
broadband internet access service use has been highlighted
as extraordinarily high and may be affecting the service
we provide to other users.
is committed to providing the best quality of service to
all of our customers and we have an overriding duty to preserve
our network integrity. (See Clause 5.9 Terms and Conditions
at www.tiscali.co.uk/products/broadband). Your usage is
currently compromising this.
these circumstances we reserve the right to change or manage
your broadband service and at peak times we may restrict
the bandwidth available to you for high volume downloading,
although regular internet use, browsing, email, streaming
etc. will be unaffected.
however you would like to cancel your Tiscali broadband
service at no further cost, please contact us at:
on!! They're limiting my unlimited account? I've heard of
it happening to people who have downloads running 24/7,
but I was clocking up less than 5GB a week on average, and
that's between myself and a whole house full of users.
I complained and got this reply:
you for your query - I have included some information here
which should answer all you questions.
are only managing bandwidth at peak times between 6pm and
midnight. It only applies to extraordinarily heavy users
- to put this into context, the average broadband customer
uses 1.8Gb a month, these customers are downloading between
50 and 150Gb a month, which even at the lower end is equivalent
to high volume downloading 10 hours a day 7 days a week.
promote our broadband service as 'always on', which it will
be even for very high users. Tiscali is doing this because
we don't want to establish a cap for all users - other ISPs
are capping at between 1-2Gb per month and a good guide
for fair usage is 15Gb per month, this is what is applied
by Wanadoo and BT and is fast becoming the industry standard
we are not able to migrate customers to another ISP at this
stage, this is because the majority of our customers are
on DataStream and BT have not established a DataStream to
IPStream migration process. We will ensure the swiftest
possible cancellation for customers choosing to leave Tiscali.
restriction will be in place shortly and will stay in place
while downloads exceed 15Gb per month. A direct link
to the Terms and Conditions is here http://www.tiscali.co.uk/products/broadband/build/tcs/index.html
on a God damned cotton-pcking moment, they promote their
service as Unlimited, not always on! Unlimited does not
mean always on, and now it seems their "Unlimited"
service has a 15GB a month ceiling! Needless to say none
of this existed when I signed up.
complained again, and they made it clear this was the new
policy and I could like it or lump it. They also repeatedly
told me how easy it would be if I wanted to cancel my service
and move on. Until I heard this I actually was going
to cancel, but now I was on a mission, and along for the
ride whether they liked it or not.
course, despite their claims, it's actually not that easy
to cancel your service. At least not if you want a minimum
of downtime. You see, back in August 2003, a new industry
standard was agreed implementing the use of what's known
as a Migrations Authority Code (MAC) number.
without going into too much detail, lets a new provider
step in and take over from your old provider with a minimum
of disruption to your service. Half an hour at most in many
Unfortunately this is a voluntary code,
though it has seen widespread industry adoption with names
like Andrews & Arnold, Entanet, Nildram, Virgin.net,
AOL, Freedom2Surf, Pipex, Vispa, BT (Broadband & Yahoo!)
InterVivo, PlusNet, VNL Ltd (HomeChoice), Bulldog LCC Communications
Ltd, Spitfire, Wanadoo UK, Community Internet, Mailbox Internet,
Telefonica UK, Zen Internet, Easynet, Netplan Internet Solutions,
Thus (Demon), Eclipse Internet and MetroNet Uniworld Communications
Ltd already signed up.
anyone missing?? Yup, Tiscali, who have decided that because
they use a combination of Data Stream and IPstream, and
can't offer migration to IPSTream users, it would be wrong
of them to offer it to anybody. Their exact wording is that
BT announced the new price of £11 for migration from
1 May 2004, BT said initially that it will be providing
a process for IPStream to DataStream migration and vice
versa in November 2004, however this delivery date from
BT has slipped to an unspecified date in 2005.
does not offer IPStream to IPStream migration as a matter
of principle. We do not want to provide a migration service
that we can't offer to all customers. The majority of our
broadband customers are DataStream and therefore have no
noble of them! Shame that same nobility doesn't extend to
prices, but I'll get to that in a moment.
course there's always the option to simply cancel and live
with the seven days or so of 'Net-free down time, but after
reading countless tails of Tiscali leaving markers (placeholders)
on people's lines, sometimes for weeks on end, thus stopping
other ISPs from taking over, I was more than a little wary
of this option.
so what do we have so far. Well, we have an unlimited Broadband
service with a 15GB a month limit, no way to view customer
feedback until AFTER you sign up with them and no migration
facility if you want a painless way out again. This in itself
is enough to get reasonably miffed about, but there's more.
a long exchange of emails complaining at having a limit
put on my unlimited account, they agreed to reduce my monthly
charge from £24.99 to just £19.99. I was thrilled,
I was even prepared to consider reducing my download volume
for a price like this! But this is Tiscali we're dealing
with here, so all was not as it seemed.
decided that rather than reduce the price, I'd instead opt
for the new, 1GB service and pay the same price, only that
wasn't possible because:
1meg is currently unavailable to you. This is due to the
current network you are on and we are unable to upgrade
this location at present. I can however offer you 512 at
£17.99 per month which we are offering users who are
unable to have 1meg."
that's a hell of a saving. A £24.99 connection for
£17.99!! Trouble is, their 512K connection doesn't
cost £24.99 any more, it costs £19.99, and apparently
has done since last April (2004), just a month after I signed
this point I dig out my bank statement to see what I've
been charged. Sure enough, £24.99 has been taken from
my account every month to to date. Excellent!! a rebate
too!! But no, Tiscali company policy is that you have to
notice the price changes yourself then apply for a service
change to get the new price. I
wonder if I'll be allowed to continue my service at the
existing price if they ever go UP rather than down?
As Tiscali user Stuart Widdowson told me:
December, I visited Tiscali's website (I had no reason to
beforehand) and noticed that the price for 256k Broadband
(which I am on) had dropped to £17.99 (I was paying
£19.99), I emailed the billing dept and was sent a
mail back telling me to downgrade to the £17.99 package,
using the Upgrade / Downgrade option on the website, I tried,
only to find out that this was 'temporarily unavailable'
as Tiscali had some 'Exciting New Packages' due for release
in January, I was not too pleased.
I was even less pleased, when I found out that the £17.99
price had been in since April 2004, Tiscali had not contacted
me to inform me of the price change, as they should have
done in the T&C's"
like many others, does a great job over on the Tiscali support
forums in helping people who are having trouble, while at
the same time trying to get Tiscali to clean up their act
and play fair. A thankless task for sure!
certain you think this saga is drawing to a close by now.
I only wish it were. The day after Tiscali so generously
cut my charges to just £17.99 per month, they also
cut my speed too. Not by half, not even by two thirds, no,
it dropped from around 56K/sec to under 1K/sec! I was angry!
immediately got on the phone to give them a piece of my
mind, and probably would have done if I thought for one
second that the Indian call centre operative on the other
end of the line had the faintest idea what I was saying.
I've recently posted this snippet of the conversation on
the front page, but for those who missed it this is how
held 20th January 2005
can you please email everything you
just told me to this email address
No, my email client is neither sending nor recieving,
it just craps out after several hours of trying. I've
told you that three times now!
Oh,sounds like there's a fault somewhere
No shit Sherlock!
Can you use a different email account?
It's not the account that's at fault, it's the connection,
and if what you were trying to say was can I use a different
PC, all the people I know are at work or out at the moment.
Can't I phone this department?
don't have phones
well, they have phones, but only to dial out. Nobody can
dial in, it's not allowed.
Not even you?
So what are you going to do to get my connection up to
speed. Can you email them for me?
We can't do anything from here.
Then why was I transferred here?
To correct your fault sir
Okay then, correct it
We are trying
Trying How? You haven't explained the problem, offered
to diagnose the problem, agreed to get the engineers on
it, told me how long it might take.
We can't tell you that, you need to speak to technical
Then let me speak to them then.
You'll need to email them.
Look, this is ridiculous, you're charging me for a full
speed broadband connection and I'm getting a fraction
what I'd get on dial-up!! It's not good enough
right, I'd put all that in writing when you email them
Listen! read my lips, I HAVE NO EMAIL!!!
Oh dear, that's no good
Look, just put me through to someone in the UK, I've had
several clicks I get someone in the UK
Tiscali technical help, Steve speaking how can I help?
explaining the whole thing to them for about the 5th time,
and him telling me he can't discuss details of my account
with me because somebody has left a message on the computer
telling them not to (he wouldn't clarify this further other
than to tell me not everyone has this message on the computer)
he tells me
don't really do the technical stuff here"
Then who does?
a different department
Then for God's sake let me speak to them
You have to email them I'm afraid
Are they limiting my bandwidth?
I can't discuss details of your account, there's a note
against your account on the computer telling me not to.
You mean for security reasons?
No, I can discuss accounts with some other people, yours
just has a note on it for some reason.
slam down the phone.
an ingenious idea! What a wonderful way to cut the demands
on your customer support team. Get customers, some of who
will have no 'Net connection at all, to email details of
their fault before you agree to help them! It's foolproof!
All you need is a few automated excuses by autoresponder
and you're done!
love to hear your thoughts on this article. Just follow
You may even win our monthly "Star Letter" award!