Reliability problems with @Home e-mail sends customers elsewhere

By Ed Foster, InfoWorld |  Networking

Excite@Home officials acknowledge they had e-mail problems in January, and that they have recommended some customers get a free Excite account to use temporarily for important e-mail. Although their cable partners may be telling customers that e-mail is a free service, Excite@Home still considers it a crucial feature. "E-mail is part of the core services," says Mark Bindon, vice president of customer care for Excite@Home's consumer division. "But I can certainly understand where a [cable provider's] tier one support rep might have gotten to the point these last few weeks where they might tell a customer to go somewhere else for e-mail." According to Bindon, Excite@Home upgraded itts e-mail systems in October to address capacity issues. "What we're seeing now are software-related problems, and we're working with our software vendor to nail those down."

One can't blame @Home users if they don't put much faith in the company's promises. And from reading a canned statement that @Home sent me and has distributed to some customers, one has to wonder if the company has a clue where its problems lie. "Broadband users put considerably more stress on a network compared to dial-up subscribers and Excite@Home is building and constantly enhancing its e-mail system to meet current and future demands," the statement read. "Broadband users' systems are constantly checking for new e-mail -- and some e-mails may contain files of substantial size -- and thus the load on the system is millions of requests per minute."

I'll let that statement speak for itself, except to point out that the real trouble for @Home's customers is with incoming mail, and it's hard to believe that a broadband network could be overly stressed by that. Frankly, I'm flabbergasted that @Home hasn't been able to get this fixed after all these months. Free or not, an ISP that can't deliver e-mail reliably shouldn't be in business very long. I hope that's a message that doesn't go astray.

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