Exclusive: BTopenworld 'unuseable'

ADSL subscribers find service 'unuseable'

BTopenworld's high-speed Internet service has been virtually unuseable for the last week according to users, adding to the malaise surrounding British Telecommunications' broadband rollout.

Openworld admitted Tuesday customers have had "problems connecting and downloading Web pages" over the last week due to incorrect software on a server. The problems meant that users paying £39.99 a month for an always-on, high-speed ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) connection had to make up to 40 attempts to connect to openworld's network.

"Everybody has had intermittent problems from day one, but we could live with it," broadband user Darren Collins told ZDNet UK. "But for the last week it's been just terrible. It's been unuseable, if you want to use it for what it's supposed to be there for. If you can get a connection, it works, but God help you if you turn your PC off."

Openworld says it has put a fix in place, but users said problems persisted Tuesday.

BT has ongoing problems with its rollout of ADSL, with a number of delays, complaints about the quality of service, technical problems connecting users, long waiting lists, and a lack of competition from other telecommunications companies.

Most recently AOL and Freeserve claimed BT Ignite, the infrastructure division, is giving openworld preferential treatment in connecting users. Openworld says it is connecting several thousand ADSL users a week, while the other ISPs say Ignite has only allocated them about 100 connections a week.

Ironically, BTopenworld engineers say the outage was partly caused by the ISP's rapid broadband growth. "There appears to have been a volumetric problem caused by the rapid increase in new broadband users," an engineer wrote to an openworld technical support newslist Sunday. "As openworld has the largest user base, unfortunately it is our service users who experience such architectural problems first -- that's the risk you run as an early adopter, I'm afraid."

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The news that matters is not the puff, that BT expects to cover "half the population of the UK" with ADSL capability by early summer, and will have reached 70,000 subscribers by April. What Guy Kewney thinks matters is -- whether the various super-powers in the comms business can agree a way of doing business. Go to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.

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