Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Changing your Internet provider

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about changing your ISP. The subject was prompted, in part, by yet another failure at Xtra – and by the Consumer magazine survey which says, every year, that Xtra delivers the worst customer satisfaction of all Internet providers.

And these Internet failures hurt New Zealand businesses. I was talking to a business at the weekend which had been prevented from getting their business done for a while. I asked why they don’t change providers and I was told: we don’t know how. Sue, this one’s for you.

I’ve written some instructions on what you do to change ISPs. I’m going to keep them live on the front page of this blog for a while, near the top right. And – it’s easy. Don’t let your ISP get away with bad service – vote with your feet.

Read on for my speaking notes, or download the audio as ogg or mp3.

Telecom had yet another outage last weekend. Their broadband failed on Friday night and wasn’t fixed until Saturday afternoon. The helpdesk went into meltdown, and the online status message said there were no issues with the network. I think that last part was particularly galling for customers. They didn’t know whether to keep trying to get through because they had no way of knowing how widespread the outage was or whether it would be fixed if they didn’t tell Telecom.

As proof that some technical people don’t live in the same world as their customers, I saw postings on the main technical mailing lists to the effect that, if your Internet breaks down on a Friday night, you shouldn’t notice because you should be down at the pub. I’m sorry, but that kind of attitude has no place in running a piece of infrastructure. Its not up to the technicians to decide when people should be doing their business or their pleasure over the Internet.

I was talking to a small business that uses the Internet – and which small doesn’t use the Internet – last weekend, and I asked why they stuck with Telecom Xtra when the service is so poor. We don’t know how to change, I was told. Sue, this one’s for you!

Q: So how do you know who your Internet provider is?

A: You’ll be getting a regular bill from someone! Xtra is a common brand, it’s part of Telecom, and if you are getting significant charges on your Telecom phone bill marked Xtra then that’s who you are with.

Q: Xtra has the worst service in the Consumer survey, you were saying the other week?

A: Absolutely I was. They have come consistently bottom of the annual Consumer survey for years, and not just bottom but miserably, abjectly, in the weeds bottom. Don’t use them.

Other Internet providers you might notice – ClearNet and Paradise are both part of TelstraClear. iHug is part of Vodafone, although Vodafone has rebranded them as Vodafone Internet I think. They score pretty badly on the survey of customer service as well. Funny how the telephone companies don’t seem to be able to deliver customer service, for Internet services anyway.

Q: Who is top of the survey for customer service?

A: Inspire.Net is top, followed by MaxNet and Actrix. All smallish New Zealand companies that specialize in delivering Internet services. I’ll link them all today.

Q: How do you actually change?

A: It’s as simple as you want to make it. At its most straightforward, just ring up a new Internet service provider – I just mentioned three good ones – and ask. They’ll make it easy, you can be certain. And that’s the most important part thing to do.

Q: What about your email address?

A: If you use an email address that looks like, you should change that. It’s a very low rent address, like saying that you can’t be bothered. But you can keep your old Xtra address for a couple of bucks a month. Ring them up when you stop the rest of your account and ask for an email forward, then tell them your new address. They will send all your email to your new account.

Then, you should go and check your email software to use your new provider. They will give you instructions on how to set it correctly.

But there is an even better option, especially for businesses. Get your own domain name! Your Internet service provider can help here. You should pay about $30 to $40 per year to have your own name on the Internet. Xtra charges nearly $200 so don’t get it from them. If you do this, you can have email addresses like – it’s far more business-like and it lets you have as many names as you like.

Q: What if you already have your own domain name?

A: I’m amazed by the number of businesses which have a website with a name like and then use Xtra email addresses. You really, really should change that. The best way would be to ring up whoever hosts your website and ask them to forward email sent to your web address automatically to your email account. Or, if your web site is hosted by an ISP and your email is with Xtra, ring up the people who host your web site and see if they do Internet access as well. That will make your like simpler and give you one bill for everything.


Consumer’s ISP survey – Telecom Xtra is the worst, Inspire is the best.

Telecom Xtra fails again. Who’s surprised?

Don’t put up with bad service – change your ISP.

posted by colin at 12:17 pm  


  1. FWIW, I have used Snap for a couple of years and their service has been exemplary during that time. Sure there has been the occasional glitch along the way but every time I have contacted them I’ve been able to deal with a knowledgable and efficient support person who was able to quickly remedy the problem. I have no financial or business interest in Snap, I’m just a happy customer who is now a firm believer in the benefits of using a small ISP.

    Comment by Brett Roberts — 4 December 2008 @ 1:07 pm

  2. I use Xnet, and have discovered there’s more to all this than just service or price. My ISP offers far cheaper access than Xtra, but can’t deliver sufficient internationl bandwidth to stream flash content such as youtube during busy times, whereas customers from these “Big Players” can. This has nothing t do with the speed of my phone line. NZ sites are fast and off-peak international performance is good. Basically the number of subsicribers that the ISP has is not matched by the amount of access to the international gateway that these budget ISPs pay for. If you read geekzone forums you will see others with similar issues, including Slingshot and at times, Orcon as well (rated well by consumer). So do your homework before switching from a big ISP if you want decent performance from overseas links during peak times

    Comment by Paul — 5 December 2008 @ 1:05 pm

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