Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Friday, November 9, 2007

Internet service providers – the good, the bad and the ugly

Earlier this week Consumer released its annual ISP survey. The big news on this, sadly, wasn’t the good, or even the excellent, but the ugly.

For the third year running, Xtra has come bottom. And not just bottom, but 42% – a massive slump from their abysmal 55% last year. On just about every dimension of customer satisfaction Consumer measure, Xtra gets a black mark.

Xtra is a separate brand for Internet services, which is owned and run by Telecom. Xtra competes with a lot of other Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, like ihug, Iconz, Orcon, Inspire, and Maxnet – there are lots.

Incredibly, the 42% number – the customer satisfaction for this year – was measured before the email disaster Xtra perpetrated earlier this year., and the number is now 36%. That’s right, two thirds of Xtra’s customers hate them.

That email disaster by the way was an act of corporate hubris which they tried to spin as an upgrade. Xtra claimed it was upgrading everyone’s email but in fact it sold all its email facilities – all its customers email facilities – to Yahoo in Australia, who stuffed up the implementation horribly. Lots of people lost a lot of email, and including a lot of businesses. You really have to ask yourself if you run a business why you would use Xtra, and why you would use such a low-rent brand as Xtra in your email address. Just say no!

The real concern I have is that Xtra is the biggest ISP in terms of customer numbers, but it gets such hugely bad ratings. If people keep with them despite their lousy service, they will never improve. Why should they?

Let’s look at the best ISPs out there. The Consumer survey found the same ISP to be the top four times running, that’s Inspire. The next two in the survey are Actrix and Maxnet in Auckland. All three of these will give you service wherever you are in New Zealand, and judging by the surveys, you’ll get a lot more service from them than you will from Xtra.

To make the change, ring one of these up and ask. Do it now – 0800 4 THE NET, 0800 MAXNET, or 0800 ACTRIX.

posted by colin at 8:02 am  


  1. The reason my wife and I now have our own domain name is because Xtra’s Bubble service cannot handle email ids with the ‘&’ character, pete&cath in our case. (By the way, this website does not accept that character either). Fortunately, Xtra advised us of this two or three months before their new system went live, so we had enough time to get our new email address (which still has ‘&’ in it) up and running, and so avoid all the problems other people faced. As a bonus, we can now change our ISP (still Xtra, but not for much longer) whenever we like, but not have to worry about advising all and sundry of a changed email address!

    Comment by Peter Lynch — 11 November 2007 @ 9:11 pm

  2. Peter – you are quite right that getting a domain name is a great way to separate your email and web address from that of your provider. It’s the way to go if you want set yourself free to choose the best deal.

    Something else to watch out for is that different ISPs charge different amounts for domain names, and you don’t have to get your name from your own ISP, any registrar can provide one or take over your existing name if you wish. I wouldn’t pay more than $40pa per name, and you can find them down to less than $30.


    Comment by colin — 12 November 2007 @ 7:18 pm

  3. I ran Consumer’s ISP survey in about 1998, I think it was their first one, and (the still shiny) Xtra bottomed out way back then, too.

    TelstraClear (then Clear) were second worst. were head and shoulders the best. I’m still a Paradise customer but now Paradise is run by TelstraClear. I haven’t bought the latest Consumer report but I don’t expect to be surprised by the bottom-dwellers.

    Wait times on the TC helpdesk were only 82 minutes the last time I bothered calling them for help (last week), due to ‘unexpectedly high call volumes’. The same was true nearly 10 years ago. I don’t know how many years it will take them to expect high call volumes.

    Nothing’s changed, Colin. Isn’t that a shame.

    Comment by Rowan — 17 November 2007 @ 8:06 am

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