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Pros & cons: iPrimus’s dialup access reviewed

A roundup of the pros & cons of iPrimus's dialup Internet access as I see them, plus a little technical issue. For discussion.

Sean Vickery 21/11/03

The pros: what’s good about the service

Good Internet performance. Primus being a large international telecommunications company they seem to have sufficient bandwidth to the US. Generally I think I get reasonably low latency, reasonably low packet loss and reasonably high throughput to major Internet destinations. Primus's networks are very good at getting IP packets to where they need to be.

Good email availability and convenient email access. Occasionally my email client stops working. On these occasions iPrimus's webmail service is a godsend. I used the webmail service on my previous ISP (Brisnet), and have used a third-party webmail sevice (mail2web). Primus's webmail service is faster, easier to use and more reliable then either of those.

Good billing & accounts service. My bill is always correct and it arrives on a predictable date.

Good accounts payment system. I can pay my bill in any number of ways; the most convenient for me presently is BPay; when my bill arrives I instruct my financial institution to make payment to iPrimus from my account the day before the bill falls due. Very convenient.

Price. At $24.95 per month, Primus's service is about the market average.

Cons—what’s bad about Primus’s dialup Internet access

It takes too long to get through to technical support. I don't know whether it's because Primus's technical support centre is underresourced, understaffed, whether their call-queueing system is not working properly or what, but when I call Primus technical support I know I am usually looking at twenty or more minutes waiting on the line before I'll get a staffer. This could be improved.

Technical staff ae quick to assume the problem lies on the customers' computers. Sometimes I know there's probably something wrong with my computer's configuration, and in these instances the tech support people are helpful in pinpointing and fixing whatever's wrong. But other times the problem is at Primus's end. The tech support staff seem unwilling in general to pass problems through the hierarchy to the engineers, so these sort of faults take ages to get fixed. This may be because the 1st-level staff don't have the right training, or Primus's system for getting fault reports to the engineers is lacking. Or, perhaps the 1st-level staff need more feedback from the engineers when a problem is fixed for a customer. Eg, if an engineer resets a dialin modem bank as a result of a customer query, the 1st-level tech support staffer should be informed so they learn that the customer's problem was solved by a fix at Primus's end.

One specific technical issue

I know about few little bugbears but I'll name just one here, an example of the sort of thing that irritate me:

The POP servers' authentication error codes are uninformative when one's mail client uses secure (SASL) authentication. Specifically, when one's mailbox is locked (waiting for another dropped POP connection to time out) one tries to download one's mail the error message returned is 'proxy authentication failed'. For quite a while I was scratching my head wondering what caused that. When I turned off SASL in my mail client I got a 'mailbox locked' message. Primus's POP server (or proxy POP server) should return a consistent error message regardless of the method of authentication customers use.

The original version of this article is available on the web at <www.seanv.info/primus_service.html>.