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free-online / Plusnet

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free-online / Plusnet

I’ve been with free-online more or less since they started a few years ago. I started with the original 0845 service and migrated to Connect Lite when it first started. Now I have ADSL which is the subject of another posting of mine a day or so ago.

What’s bugging me now is this: it’s clear that free-online is now some sort of subsidiary of Plusnet; but just look at this forum, and the other so-called ‘discussion forums’ at free-online.

Someone has to face the fact that they are just decaying and empty and useless because none of them get a new post in a month-of-Sundays. Look at that poor Kristobelle who hasn’t even had a staff reply to a question of nearly two weeks ago.

Then go to the Plusnet web site (which apart from different background colour and logo is functionally identical to free-online) and see what’s going on in their forums - a totally different kettle of fish, and somewhere that Kristobelle would by now have received a dozen helpful answers.

It appears to me that free-online is now just a second-hand version of Plusnet. Surely it would make sense to migrate all free-online customers to Plusnet and do away with free-online altogether. I don’t see why the migrated free-online customers couldn’t keep their email addresses unchanged - after all, the original free-online mailboxes of mail@username.idps.co.uk still work fine just like they did years ago when free-online started, and no doubt could continue to do so alongside mail@username.free-online.co.uk and mail@username.plusnet.co.uk.

If I don’t get any replies to this in another month-of-Sundays, that will just emphasize my point; and if I do get a reply it had better provide a pretty good reason why I, along with all other free-online subscribers. have to miss out on a really useful and relevant set of forums.
23 REPLIES
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RE: free-online / Plusnet

Dear user,

This is not simply the case. We do our best to answer every forum that we control. From time to time a posting may get missed. We recommend that if a user wishes a guarenteed response toi raise any queiry via contact us.

I simply think that this forum is not as active as the plusnet forum. As such a missed post is more easily seen.

Kind Regards

Kevin
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| Business Critical Web Applications available
| Customer Support @ <http://www.myopenapps.com>
| PlusNet Technologies Ltd.
+ ------ Internet Access Solutions @ <http://www.plus.net> ---------
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RE: free-online / Plusnet

Dear Kevin - Thanks for the reply. Maybe I wasn’t very clear in my ranting, but I was not trying to say that the forum moderators had a duty to reply immediately to every posting - as you say, there is always the excellent ticket-based customer support for specific problems.

Surely a forum is created to provide a democratic meeting point for exchange of information BETWEEN USERS who can learn from each other as much as from the moderators. I mentioned the lack of response to other postings to show that the free-online forum is not fulfilling its proper function simply because practically no-one is using it. This can only be because there are not enough free-online subscribers to provide the fuel for a decent forum. Compare for example the free-online ADSL forum with its PlusNet counterpart:

* free-online postings in the last 24 hours for = 1 (your reply to me), total posts = 9.

* PlusNet postings in the last 24 hours = 46, total posts = 1453. This forum has enough contributors to generate really useful lively discussion. I have been watching the free-online forums since their inception, and see sign that they will ever reach the critical mass that is essential to make them worth while.

I know the PlusNet ADSL forum has been running for about 7 weeks longer than free-online, but that doesn’t even begin to account for the discrepancy.

Hence my point - Since from the point of view of the customers (without whom neither service could exist) the two services appear basically identical, surely it would make practical sense to migrate free-online users to PlusNet so that they could benefit from the advantages of scale that PlusNet provides, while simplifying administration by eliminating the need to provide a sort of shadow of the PlusNet web service for free-online subscribers.

At the end of my first posting on this topic I said that if I do get a reply, I’d like it to include a good reason why this can’t be done.

Your reply did not provide a reason; instead it said that this forum is not as active as the PlusNet forum.

That is exactly my point, if somewhat understated.

I think it is absurd to try and construe this as providing the ‘advantage’ that it’s easier to see 1 new post if there are few other posts.

What do you see as being the chief function of this forum? And for whose benefit is the forum created?
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RE: free-online / Plusnet

> Your reply did not provide a reason; instead it said that this forum is not as active as the PlusNet forum.

The original design for free-online was to provide a better alternative to the free-subscription offers from other ISPs. Such as freeserve. As such free-online is a well known brand in the marketplace, does have many new users each month and have a loyal userbase who do not want to move their websites and email address over from the free-online network to the plusnet side of the business.


> I think it is absurd to try and construe this as providing the ‘advantage’ that it’s easier to see 1 new post if there are few other posts.

As a seperate entity in its own right, the customers of free-online have a right to their own forums and not have the confusion of different computer settings mentioned in a forum. free-online's forum being seperate makes things more simple to the end user.


> What do you see as being the chief function of this forum? And for whose benefit is the forum created?
>

To provide a place for free-online users to communicate and for support to give answers to questions in an open forum, where all users can review.

Kind Regards

Kevin
--
--
| Business Critical Web Applications available
| Customer Support @ <http://www.myopenapps.com>
| PlusNet Technologies Ltd.
+ ------ Internet Access Solutions @ <http://www.plus.net> ---------
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RE: free-online / Plusnet

i'm also a bit depressed by the lack of activity on the free-online forums. i'm also a bit amazed that a forum that should have quite a large client base is unused and quite wasted.

i'm wondering are free-online users already using other outside forums that are well established and therefore see no need in using the forums here, or are free-online customers so new to the idea of using a forum that they see no need for it?

maybe we just have to give it time to develop.

i wish i knew how to attract some more users.
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RE: free-online / Plusnet

Hi there Nud - glad to know there is actually another free-online user...

If you want to see how these fora should be, visit www.Plusnet.co.uk, and Lo! - the same web site in a different colour, except the fora are lively and full of good contributions. You can sample the happening forum content by signing in with ‘guest’ for both username and password

Of course before I started shooting my mouth off with this topic I should have just done the obvious thing: sign on for a PlusNet free 0845 account which I don’t have to use (although their dialup on 0845 1400 101 seems more reliable than free-online’s equivalent), and then I can fully take part in the discussions, and leave these fora to just moulder away on their own.

I fix PCs for a living, and have recommended free-online to zillions of clients since I started using them as my main ISP nearly 5 years ago, but if things go on like this I’ll be hopping over the fence to PlusNet as soon as my year’s ADSL contract comes to an end.

I don’t know what the politics are, but I can only presume that PlusNet swallowed up free-online a good few months ago, and although the free-online service only suffered a little (the help-line response time used to be phenomenally good), I do feel a bit like a second-class traveller now, and no-one at free-online seems to want to talk about it. As another user, do you feel my posts on this topic are mean and uncalled-for, or do you think what I’m banging on about (migrating free-online users to PlusNet) might be an idea worth pursuing?
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RE: free-online / Plusnet

alrate heapug,

(i feel like i've just found a message in a bottle washed up onto my desolate free-online island).

i didn't realise free-online had been around for 5 years, i assumed they were a few months old as i only saw them by chance on 'net4nowt' whilst i was looking for an adsl provider.

i wouldn't say you are wrong in moaning about the service; i'm just reminded of how things were when i signed up to my first free isp a few years back (i think it was screaming.net).

there used to be a lot of connection problems back then (but it was the best value isp), it did become a decent service after a time. i'm just hoping free-online improves in the same manner.

i'm still connected to ntl as a backup isp and will be returning to them if free-online continues to have the connection problems.

i did expect teething problems with the service though when i signed up. i was truly amazed when i plugged my adsl modem in and it worked first time. for the first few days it was very stable but now we have the 'BT' problems. it sounds reasonable and i'm sure given a few(?) weeks things will be working fine. (does a few weeks sound like too long a period for free-online to get things sorted, maybe i'm just a bit too easy going.)

the service has to improve (i have faith), if it continues like at present then it will be bye-bye from me. adsl isn't as quick as i was expecting so going back to ntl won't be that bad.

i'm impressed with the service status reports from free-online, i think that makes a big difference in tollerating the current difficulties.

BUT if there are better services elsewhere, like with plusnet by the sounds of it from what you have said, then we all may as well abandon ship.

i really hope free-online can make it all work soon. the webspace (not that i've used it yet) and fax services are things that made me choose free-online over the other adsl providers but it amounts to nothing if the adsl connection remains poor.

i'm interested to hear what you have to say about plusnet or the other adsl providers. if you are going to jump ship then i might just come with you :-)
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RE: free-online / Plusnet

i forgot to mention...

i'm using ntl at the moment as my adsl connection is dead. screaming.net must really have mellowed me out - it like returning to the 'good' old days when it still seemed exciting.

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RE: free-online / Plusnet

well, what I was suggesting isn’t really jumping ship, more like moving to a more spacious but otherwise identical cabin on the same ship while paying the same for your ticket...

If you get a chance to visit the PlusNet web site, you’ll see what I mean - it’s EXACTLY the same as free-online except with different colours - the portal and all the service stats and info is exactly the same and the deals on offer are also exactly the same, including fax to mail etc. etc. (I just LOVE fax to mail - people think I’ve got my own fax line which is good for business, and it’s been pretty reliable. The only other ISP I know who provides it free is Demon (at least they used to). Nildram also do an even better one, but it costs £20 + VAT per year.

I think the main difference you’d find if you changed to PlusNet is better forums and perhaps slightly better dial-in. For example, because I’m having lots of problems with my ADSL (either BT or most likely my cheapo PCI modem), I tried to access my free-online account using their 0845 number; but couldn’t pick up my email or browse. However, when I tried PlusNet’s 0845 number (using a new Plusnet account I’d set up for a client) all was fine. The IP addresses are the same for both services.

I started off with Demon about 10 years ago, then tried zillions of ISPs before settling mainly with free-online a few weeks after it started 5 years ago. The help line was amazingly good, which is why I started recommending it to clients, and I still think the whole outfit ain’t half bad, they do appear to be really trying...

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RE: free-online / Plusnet

i've had a look over at plusnet - it made me laugh. a case of deja vu if ever there was one.

i'll give free-online a couple of months before i make up my mind about moving to another 'cabin' (that was a really good analogy, i liked that, made me laugh too).

this forum is beginning to feel like trying to kick a crippled donkey into getting up. no matter how much you or i post something hear it's not going to encourage any anyone else to reply. it wouldn't be so bad if customer-support said something but even they seem to have become bored with it.

what you mentioned at the start about not getting any feedback in the forums (er, fora) has finally sunk in. this forum is as dead as it can be.

just a thought for customer-support, could you put another survey on the welcome page (like the one there at the moment) but ask if free-online users know what a forum is and whether they know there is one available for them. i really am amazed that they are this empty.

i'll have a look at what plusnet has using the sign-up method you mentioned. it would have been nice to see more free-online users getting together though.

i'll keep checking back here just in case anything happens - it's like being a bird spotter or something waiting for that rare glimpse of a free-online user posting a comment.
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RE: free-online / Plusnet

Hi Guys,

You are quite right in that the FOL forum is a lot quieter than it's Plusnet equivalent but by the same token, the force9 forum is also a lot quieter than Plusnet.

You should see no discrepancy in the level of support we give to Plusnet users and that that we provide for FOL users, I'm especially concerned that you say the Plusnet 0845 number offers a more reliable connection than the Plusnet 0845, this should not be the case and I have to say that having carried out extensive testing, I am unable to replicate the problem. I have managed to connect first time every time.

These forums are what our customers make them. They offer a chance for you to vent your anger (though not too much hopefully), raise queries, suggest improvements and give praise :-) Many ISP's offer telephone support only and even then, at a premium rate. I think you will be hard pushed to find another ISP dedicated to providing such a level of support as ourselves - posting in internal and external forums as well as offering telephone support and online communication through the contact us system.

I like the idea about the survey on the portal. Perhaps not a survey but something eye-catching to
educate visitors to the portal as to the availability and the potential of these forums. I take this on board and will raise the idea internally - an example of us listening to your requirements :-)

Just to re-assure you, we are currently in discussion with BT and as per our service status postings (thanks for your kind comments), we hope to be able to provide a resolution to the connectivity problems very soon indeed. In the meantime, your patience is much appreciated.

Just a tip - postings to the main FOL forum will attract a quicker response as this is the forum we monitor religiously! You may note that Customer Support are not at all active in the Plusnet ADSL forum but almost every post to the main forum receives a reply or at least a comment :-)

Best Regards,
Mark.

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| Mark Hague...................Unmetered & ADSL solutions
| Customer Support......................for Home & Business
| PlusNet Technologies Ltd..........@ http://www.plus.net
+ ----- My Referrals - It pays to recommend PlusNet ----+
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RE: free-online / Plusnet

Thanx 4 your support Nud, it’s been nice meeting U online and having our little discussion; a bit like two people chatting in the middle of an empty football stadium - maybe we’ll meet again in a livelier place...

Mark, of course you are right to say that this topic is much more relevant to the General FOL forum; I realised this as soon as I’d posted it, but was encouraged by Nud’s response, and it just sort of grew from there.
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RE: free-online / Plusnet

Hi,

My comments were not regarding the relevance of your post, I was simply advising that the main forum is the one we monitor and the one we actively post to. As such, your comments will receive a faster response in there.

Regards,
Mark.

--
| Mark Hague...................Unmetered & ADSL solutions
| Customer Support......................for Home & Business
| PlusNet Technologies Ltd..........@ http://www.plus.net
+ ----- My Referrals - It pays to recommend PlusNet ----+
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RE: free-online / Plusnet

Kevin - I've only just seen your last contribution - I hope you didn't think I was ignoring it when I replied to Nud.

I also take your point about different settings for FOL and PlusNet customers; but surely the only differences for all who don’t have their web sites hosted by Plus/FOL/Force9 are the access numbers - the IP address are the same. And as for people wanting to keep their email addresses, where’s the problem? I’ve been giving people my .idps.co.uk address for the last 5 years and it still works fine.

If customers were amalgamated as I’m suggesting, surely the only effect would be to give Plus/FOL/Force9 subscribers an increased choice of access numbers. The web sites of both FOL and Force9 subscribers are presumably held on PlusNet’s servers anyway and redirection is in effect already happening.

However I do see that instructions for beginners who want to put up a web site might be a bit confusing, and I’m sure there are other issues I haven’t thought of. Still, I think it’s worth the Top Bods in all 3 ISPs getting their heads together and seeing if it could work.

Being a Very Old Git, I remember when Nuffield Motors took over Austin, Morris, Wolsely, and MG, and you could buy almost identical cars with 4 different name badges on them; the end effect was to devalue the image of all those brands in the eyes of the public - people lost their brand loyalty and started to turn to Ford and Vauxhall because they knew who was really making what...
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RE: free-online / Plusnet

hey heaphug, after reading your messages on here i'm beginning to wonder why i signed up with free online?
It seems i should've signed up with plusnet which i almost did but thought that both companies were the same so it didn't matter.
Anyhow,how are you finding their broadband?
That's what i've signed up for and i just wondered how you were getting on with it?
Have you had any problems?
Cheers
Matrix


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