Tiscali 'broadband' - Pay peanuts, get cowboys

Tiscali's '3x faster' broadband package seems too good to be true - broadband (admittedly 150k/s, but broadband nonetheless) for the same monthly fee as many unmetered dial-up packages. It is.

Tiscali make all their new users sign a 12 month contract, and cunningly arrange for the broadband activation to take longer than the 14 day mandatory 'cooling off period' such contracts require. The upshot of this is that the user is expected to decide whether or not to commit to 12 months (and £190) of internet service without ever seeing it in action.

What Tiscali don't tell you anywhere in their adverts is that they cap 'heavy users', by drastically reducing their (already low) downstream bandwidth from 150k/s to 15k/s. That's slower than a 28.8 modem. This would be at least tolerable if it was mentioned in the advertising or terms and conditions (or even sent an email to let you know what was going on), and if they did it in a way that didn't interfere with normal use of the service (To be technical, instead of queueing packets, and delivering them at a lower rate, Tiscali randomly drop packets that arrive faster than their cap). A user on Tiscali's 'shit list' can expect to have pages freeze in the middle of web browsing, downloads time out halfway through, etc.

What do you have to do to be a heavy user? Download more than 3Gb in a week. To put this in perspective, a user of normal broadband could download twice as much data in a single day. If you were (for example) to download the latest Debian DVD, you would find yourself branded a 'heavy user'.

To make matters worse, Tiscali's customer service is abysmal. Phoning their customer service line, you're lucky to be put in a half-hour long queue. If it's too busy, it will simply hang up on you. Sometimes, it will put you in the queue for half an hour, and then hang up on you. Their technical support staff blame everything on you, and their customer service operators are well trained with the party line - 'We've got your money now, and there's nothing you can do about it'.

Good things about tiscali broadband: the modem and connection are free, and you can use the telephone without having to hang up the internet. In addition, unlike many large ISPs, you're not stuck behind a transparent web proxy. If you're a very light user, and not expecting much from your broadband, then Tiscali may be for you. Just don't say I didn't warn you.