Wednesday: The NTL email saga

Wednesday 11/06/2003 NTL? Now Try Letters? At least, that seems to be the consensus of our correspondents when we ran a story saying that the email system of the cable company is buckling under the strain.

Wednesday 11/06/2003
NTL? Now Try Letters? At least, that seems to be the consensus of our correspondents when we ran a story saying that the email system of the cable company is buckling under the strain. In return, we got more than 100 complaints from affected users, and an admission from NTL to one reader that the email servers had been designed for the intermittent attentions of dial-up customers, not the constant quizzing of always-on cable subscribers. It's badly broken, and needs to be fixed. Yet it's not just NTL. I stayed over at a Demon (Don't email me, oh no) household the other week, and the invective issuing from the frustrated subscriber about missing and delayed emails was identical in every respect to that we received from NTL's users. Then he switched over to an academic mail server he used as an alternative, and for a while all I could hear in the room was a boingy-boingy noise as his missives bounced from there as well. Oh, and swearing. It may be quicker to ask people which email services they're using that have been running well: there seems to be an epidemic of failure across the board. Underfunding and overspamming are the most likely culprits, which combine with the way that email has become essential to so many people's lives to make a frustrating mess. Whether the situation will clear up of its own accord, or whether we'll have to get used to paying a bit more for email services that actually work, is not something I'd care to guess. But I suspect that the days when email was just something you got alongside your connectivity are going away, and that somebody will come up with a decent premium email service with guarantees of service and a posh image. Heck, I'd invest. (Oh, and on our original story -- where we said "Have you got problems? Tell us now!" -- yes, we know that following it with a mailto: tag was just asking for sarcastic comments. Fortunately, most of those got swallowed by the subscribers' mail systems...)

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