LibertySurf suspends service

Latest victim of unprecedented demand for unmetered Net access in the UK

LibertySurf has suspended sales of its unmetered Internet service following network and helpline congestion.

It is the latest victim of the unprecedented demand for unmetered Internet access in the UK, kick-started by Alta Vista two months ago. LibertySurf -- which took over the X-Stream Network in March -- launched its £20 a year for off-peak surfing offer in May, with CDs distributed via Comet and MVC stores across Britain.

Many of the unmetered services on offer have encountered problems, including Telewest, ntl and CallNet 0800. Marketing director of LibertySurf Paul Shalet admits it is an old story. "I don't know any unmetered ISP that hasn't said this but guess what? Demand exceeded our expectations," he says.

The main problem for LibertySurf customers, according to Shalet, is getting access to the free 0800 technical support helpline. "We had seven or eight times the response on that helpline than we expected," he explains. "The problems were emanating from first time users and it is taking us longer to deal with problems. As a result the network is clogging up and a backlog is developing."

To deal with this, LibertySurf is doubling the staff manning the lines and outsourcing to a technical support help centre. Until the backlog of problems are dealt with no more CDs will be sold. "What we are doing is ensuring that existing customers have a good experience and working through the backlog," says Shalet.

People logging on to the service are also encountering problems Shalet admits. "We have had technical problems. The thing is you don't know how the network will react when it goes from zero to tens of thousands and many are switching on at 6pm," he says. "We can put it straight and we will."

No date is being given for when CD's will be sold again. "That all depends on how quickly we can respond to existing problems," Shalet says.

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