An army of MacAce customers has helped the Bodmin based ISP come to an agreement in a dispute with ADSL provider Netservices that had turned of the broadband connections of 400 of MacAce's customers, and, according to MacAce MD Gary Hall, refused to release those customers using its services.

The temporary agreement sees MacAce customers using the Netservices ADSL line being granted a broadband Internet connection until September 22. After that date those customers will need to find an alternative provider, or remain with Netservices.

MacAce MD Gary Hall explained: "The agreement hands over ownership of our affected customer base to Netservices."
In the dark

Around 400 customers of Bodmin-based Mac-only ISP MacAce were left without Internet access following the dispute. Last night MacAce told those customers that it would be unable to provide an Internet broadband service. This admission follows over a week of down time for many of MacAce's customers, who have been left both in the dark as to what is going on, and in the "dark ages" – lacking access to the Web and email.

MacAce MD Gary Hall issued the following, heartfelt, statement to affected customers:

"It is with great regret that I have to inform you that we will no longer be able to provide your Internet broadband service. Our ADSL backbone provider Telefonica sold itself to Netservices plc a few months ago and our relationship with this new supplier has been far from perfect.

"We have had dealings with Netservices previously and did not wish to continue with them upon news of the takeover and tried to move our customers away from them. Netservices plc did not do this or migrate customers or cancel connections with them. Unfortunately our disputes with Netservices plc have left us with no other option but to cease our accounts with them.

"I apologize for the length of time you have already been disconnected without much information from us but we were trying to negotiate with Netservices to no avail."

Money matters

One MacAce customer told Macworld of his dealings with Netservices during the outage. He explained that Netservices told him the dispute is about money – the likely reason for MacAce's decision to cease its accounts with the company following the dispute.

The letter from Gary Hall explained what affected customers should do: "This, unfortunately, does not leave your connection in a very healthy state. You will need to find a new supplier when the cease order goes through. In about 10-14 days you should be able to reconnect to a supplier of your choice. You can contact Netservices on 0870 753 0900 and deal with them directly if you wish, although I would suggest you find another supplier. If you do decide to continue with them they may offer you another one of their resellers for service and should be able to reconnect you straight away.

"Be warned, they may not permit you to leave their network very easily as they have not signed up to the OFCOM codes of practice," he adds.

No way out

If MacAce's suggestion customers should call Netservices was intended to put the ball back in MacAce's court, it seems to have had that effect. Following MacAce's decision to issue the statement to its customers, Netservices was "inundated" with calls from affected MacAce customers wishing to terminate their contracts. A number of these customers contacted Macworld to complain that Netservices was refusing to hand over the necessary migration codes so that they can move to another provider.

MacAce's Hall has contacted Macworld to confirm: "MacAce and Netservices have reached an agreement with Netservices to re-instate the service of our affected customers. After an army of customers flooded their lines I think they finally decided to be fair. The agreement transfers the customers to Netservices but permits any customer to cease or migrate immediately or whenever they wish.

"I’m glad it’s finally been sorted. I’ve sent a mailing out to customers and we’ll be ringing as many as we can to inform them," Hall said.

Hall has sent another statement out to his customers. This time it reads: "We have today reached an agreement with Netservices whereby they have agreed to turn on your broadband internet connections until September 22, 2005. The agreement hands over ownership of our affected customer base to them.

"In order to maintain your connection we recommend you contact Netservices over the coming week and be transferred to a supplier of their choice. However, you do have the option to ask them for a migration code and transfer to another ISP of your choice. Please be aware that Netservices will be inundated with calls so please be patient and perhaps leave your call until early next week.

"If you choose to stay with them you should contact them on 0870 753 0900 stating that you are a MacAce customer and wish to stay with them. They will take your details and sort things out for you.

"If you choose to migrate to another ISP, including back to us, you should ask them for a migration code. The migration process is designed to allow you to move ISP’s without disruption to your service. Once you have received your migration code you should supply it to your new ISP. The transfer process can take a week or two but there should not be any downtime."

Lucky few

Not all MacAce customers are affected by this dispute. According to Hall: "The vast majority of our ADSL customers are on our new ADSL platform." He is offering those disadvantaged customers who wish to stay with his ISP "free connection and your first month free with us if you choose to stay, please contact us if this is the case and we’ll do our best to expedite your re-connection as soon as possible."

In the initial correspondance with customers Hall said: "We will not be charging you any further for your current broadband and will honour all refund requests for the time you’ve not had access."

"Thank you for your support over the term of your dealings with us and I am deeply sorry for any inconvenience this will and has caused. It was certainly not my or my company’s intention or wishes for this to happen and we have done everything possible to prevent it. Unfortunately it’s a case of the big companies trying to buy or be rid of the smaller companies by whatever means they can, with no regard for the customer and end-users. Backup 0845 dial-in details are on your original setup details sheet and will allow you local-rate access to email etc," the initial letter concluded.