NTL users wrathful over email woe

After a week of disruption, NTL customers are venting their fury over the company's service, and the amount of information they're being supplied with
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

The technical problems that have plagued NTL's email service for at least the last week has left many of the company's users furious, and unable to contact friends and business colleagues via the Internet.

Since reporting about the issue on Wednesday, ZDNet UK has received a flood of correspondence from NTL customers lambasting the company -- both over the quality of its service and the level of information they have been given about the problems.

NTL reiterated on Thursday that the problem is an "intermittent" one, and that a fix is being implemented. The company is also keen to stress that there should not be problems with sending emails -- something that some users have disputed -- and that no emails will be lost.

According to those affected, though, the situation is considerably worse than NTL says.

One disgruntled reader spoke for many when he wrote that the service had been "sporadic over the last few days with mail often taking several days to arrive, but by Wednesday it had stopped altogether."

"Today (Thursday), nothing is getting through. As I work from home it's a big problem for me," he added.

NTL has told one user that the problem was confined to the Brighton area, but ZDNet UK has received reports from thwarted users as far afield as Cambridge, Nottingham, Norwich, Essex, Leicester, Surrey and London.

There also seems to be confusion about when the problem will be fixed. One customer was promised on Wednesday afternoon that a solution would have been implemented within a couple of hours, but another was told on Thursday that no details could be given about when things would be fixed.

In the meantime, users who have paid their money to the cable firm find they have no choice but to rely on alternative email accounts. For many, the inconvenience is considerable.

"As a consultant dependent on good communications, this is becoming expensive and extremely boring," said Gavin Greenwood, an NTL customer. "There's a banner on ntl.com boasting 'NTL emerges from Chapter 11' but nothing to suggest when its subscribers can expect the service they are paying for, which recently increased in price, to be restored."

Several readers have said NTL's email service has been performing badly for several months, not simply over the last week.

According to one customer, the service has been "intermittently unusable since February," adding that "their email servers are so overloaded that Outlook frequently gives 'could not connect to server' errors." He has now moved to an ADSL supplier.

Others may soon follow, if the feelings of Simon Anthony are representative. "NTL have over-sold their service and simply do not have the capacity at the popular end to cope with the demand. This is the same thing that happened with their dial-up service -- which forced me to "broad-ish band" in the first place," he told ZDNet UK. "Now not only the 150Kbps but also the 600Kbps links are oversubscribed. Either NTL must get their service running properly or I will go ADSL," he added.

Not every customer is so unhappy, though. Three readers emailed in to say that they had no problems with the NTL service.

NTL is understood to be planning to contact users by email to keep them updated about the problems -- which may be scant consolation for those who find they are unable to access the company's email service.

What other NTL users say about the company's email service:

"I have experienced problems since Friday. The service is erratic and is only just improving."

"The email service in general is poor, not just since Friday. Both myself and my wife have regular problems accessing the POP3 server, with Outlook Express timing out. Again, we get very little feedback from NTL about the problems. I pay £24.99 for the 512K broadband service and in general it's reliable, but things like access to email and news servers are very hit and miss especially during peak hours."

"I suspect NTL is practicing a policy of an 'acceptable level of complaints' from its customers. I wish I had a choice of cable providers, but NTL have bought most of the competition (which nearly bankrupted it). There is no competition in my area in Leicester."

"I'm with NTL myself and have encountered no problems at all, the service is superb. I can also access my Web mail with no problems. The problem seems to be in certain areas."

Are you an NTL user whose email account has been affected by these problems, or is the service working fine for you? Let us know (email permitting, of course)

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