This was intended for but she apparently is on
maternity leave. She did NOT mention this to me. Very nice of
her to ask me to send this, and then let it sit in her inbox
until I got tired of waiting for a response.


This is being typed up for at her request
after a phone call. This is being CC'd to relevant parties.
The headers of each section show who I have made these complaints

As requested, here is a brief summary of some of the problems
I have experienced with netcom in the past year. These events
or conversations are from my memory, some notes, as well as
captured email.

I have worked as a PC Tech for the last 5 years, taught as an
instructor at the college level, and currently do government
computer security consulting.


[POP Problems                   -                 pop-problems@ + support@]

Roughly one year ago I began having problems with the 303
(Denver CO) dialins. Many times it would click (the modem picking
up), then sit there. Other times it would begin the handshake and
not connect. The first few nights I called your tech support to
let them know of the problems, often times sitting on hold for up to
30 minutes (long distance no less). Each time they would check
some board and say they had no reported problems.

Off and on for the following 12 months I would continue to have these
problems. This occured for me, my girlfriend, and several other
friends using netcom. I eliminated the possibility of it being
my modem and my computer by using several different setups at work,
and other locations. Once a month I would call in and repeat the problems.

Many nights it was to the point where I would use my voice line
to dial in and get the bad modem(s). Right as I heard your modem
trying to connect, I would dial with my computer line and connect
successfully. Every time I called your tech support I told them
the problem, and explained in detail why it was happening, and
how to fix it. To this day the problem persists.

After a while you instituted a new address for modem problems
(pop-problems@) and I began to tell them as well. Often times I
would CC the mail to support but they mailed back saying "mail
the other guys". Their lack of ability to read unix email and
see that I had sent it to multiple users was disheartening.
pop-problems mailed back every time wanting me to fill out a short
essay on the problems, and each time I replied "see last month's

Last month I talked to someone via mail (at support, not pop-probs)
and they replied "We can't fix it". I can fix the problem, and I told
them exactly how to do it, yet they didn't.

Once every two weeks (give or take a few days), there would be a time
where I would connect to your server and get a message "network down"
or something similiar. I would then mail support from another account,
or telnet into the netcom machines and mail from my account to
let them know of the problems. Sometimes I would call (long distance)
to tell them, and each time they gave me a standard blanket excuse
(which was a complete lie in almost all cases).. "The local phone
company cut our phiber optic lines".

As I said, this was a complete lie. The error message I was getting
was being sent by your servers.. if the phibers had been cut, then
I might expect a modem handshake, connect, and it would just sit there
until it determined that it couldn't connect.

Sometimes the problem would be different like "passwd file not available"
and I would still get the same reply "our phibers were cut".

Not only did they lie about those problems, but just about everything
else. If the tech support couldn't readily give me a reason why something
wasn't working, he would never say "i'm not sure", but would rather
try to BS his way out of it. That works for the uneducated customers,
but not the handful of us that know the business.

As one of your own reps pointed out, you shouldn't be lying to ANY
of your customers, regardless.

The last problem I had was being found every hour (almost hourly). In
the middle of just about any application, with no warning I would get
hung up on. Immediate carrier drop for no apparent reason. Considering
the environment, it sounded like a POP problem or server problem.

I mailed support@ and pop-problems@ with what I had been encountering
and received replies telling me how to configure my modem. I replied
back guaranteeing it was not my modem, that I connected to other
machines (SunOS even), connected to other POPs, Bulletin Board Systems,
etc., and had no problems. The next piece of mail was the same thing,
blaming me for the problem.

Once again I told them why I thought it was their service and asked if
they could look into it. I never received an answer as to why it was
happening and it never stopped.


[Security                   -                 security@ + nc0022@]
                                                 admin@ + root@
Your security department had a direct lie, and then followed it up with
an even worse excuse for lying.

During the entire Mitnick affair, security said directly to me "no,
we do not keep customer credit card information online, and we never

The credit card file was posted to usenet (about half of it) and a report
in the hacker magazine 2600 told about it. There is no way to deny that
yes, the information was kept online, and that yes, he did grab it.

When I asked security AFTER Mitnick was arrested, had they kept it online
they said "no" again. I told them about the magazine, usenet post,
and the hundreds of articles that told about it. Security replied
"well, yes". I asked why I was lied to and received the cheezy reply
of "We couldn't tell anyone because of the investigation". The file
had been posted to usenet!!

I called back a few months later to change a billing option and asked
if they were still stored online. The reply was "yes, but they are
stored behind a triple government firewall".

I do government computer security.. both defensive (setting up firewalls)
as well as offensive (controlled system penetration). I know both
sides of the game and am well read on both sides. If you have three
firewalls up to protect that information, then you wasted thousands
of dollars on needless systems running them. That was my money (as the
customer) that you wasted. It only takes a SINGLE firewall setup correctly
to secure a system. If you didn't waste that money, that means I was
lied to again.

There were a few times when I first started using my account that I ran
into some incidents that hinted my account was being used by someone
else. Occasionally a few commands in my history file were different,
or I received a piece of mail about something completely off as if it
were intended for someone else. Each time I notified Margaret (security@)
and received no response. I had no idea if it was being looked into or not.

It stopped a month later so I quit worrying about it, but to this day
have not received a piece of mail about the incident.


[Support                   -                 support@ + support@ix]
                                               admin@ + root@

First off, I realize that customer mail takes a while to answer due to
volume, but the delay in netcom support is too much.

Since my first piece of mail, the average response time was 20 days.
This time could be expected on just about any kind of mail, even with
a subject line of "urgent" or "emergency".

I have had problems with everything from the FTP server being down,
to not being able to telnet out and connect to anything. At times
the DNS server was down or not responding making it impossible
to connect to any other machine.

The times when the FTP server was down caused problems with people
being able to access my web pages and FTP files. If I had a business
account, that would mean lost business and revenue.

Many times I would change my "full name" information (chfn) or my
password (passwd) only to find the change wouldn't take effect, or
"yp server busy, try again later". This would go on for days at some

Every ISP will suffer problems, but apparently netcom does not have
the staff needed to deal with the amount of problems, or they are
not knowledgeable in the areas needed.

Over the year support and the admin team often stated "we are taking
steps to shorten the response time". This sounds really good..for
the first three or four times the customer hears it. After that,
it becomes and unfufilled promise.


[Service Problems               -               support@ + admin@]

In recent months, the machine loads of the 23 shell servers would
average 15.0 or so. This is incredibly high and slows other jobs
and processes down. The longer it takes, the longer the user waits
to do simple tasks. There have been a few occasions of machine loads
reaching over 100.0 and higher. This screams out that netcom does not
have the hardware to match the amount of users.

When I left, you had 34,000 shell users, and during that entire year,
never did you add a new machine to help compenate the user load.

For someone to 'finger' my account, they would often wait a full minute,
sometimes three. If the lag is that bad for a 'finger', imagine what
it would be for the user.

As the WWW became more popular, every ISP started adding a Web Server to
allow their users to put up web pages. Never did you put one up for the
users. Instead, you put up a web server with information for new customers
and denied your current customers access to put their pages up. Instead,
we had to put them up in the FTP directories.

When you put web pages up the first thing you do is check them. Every
time I did, I couldn't get into the FTP server as 'anonymous' (which
others will use to view my pages). When I finally did get in, the
connection was extremely slow, and it would not load all my images.
I would have to click on the 'reload' option up to 20 times to be able
to see my full web page and each of the graphics (there are only 4).

This suggests that as more users are added, no measures are taken to
ensure bandwidth is available to them.

It took years, but you finally put up an IRC server. That server has
been acting up since day one, and was down for two weeks before I left
for a new provider. Without IRC, Web Access, or other basic services,
you can no longer claim you are an Internet provider. Instead of full
access to the net, we are getting only partial access, and what we
get is very shaky.

There have been times when I tried to connect to netcom from another
host only to get "telnetd: All network ports in use."


[Billing                        -                       billing@]

At one point a few months ago, the 303 POPs were not working. For the
entire weekend (monday afternoon was the breaking point) no one
in 303 could access the Netcom servers. Support didn't answer mail
in time, pop-problems didn't answer mail, and tech support (long
distance) denied the problem or said "it tests fine on our side".

The entire weekend went by with no change. When I finally got back on
Monday night, I mailed support telling them of the problem again,
and mailed Billing for a three day refund on two account. I realize
this is just about 70 cents per day, per account. I was only asking
for a $4.20 refund for the lost time.

Instead of getting a "Sure, no problem", I received sarcastic mail
saying "its only a couple of cents". If it is only a couple of cents,
then why hassle me in mail? Why upset me further? A few pieces of mail
later and they agreed to do that.

The second time this happened I asked for two days for two accounts.
I received NO reply at all, and never saw charges for either occasion
appear on my credit card statement. Billing had lied to me.


Last month I called to cancel one of my two shell accounts. I ended
up talking with a customer service rep at first, and then a customer
service manager called me later that day after hearing my complaints.

Both were *EXTREMELY HELPFUL* and *VERY POLITE*. They did not question
me, did not lie to me, and actually listened to me. I was truly surprised
at this. Unfortunately, this level of service had not come earlier.

I ended up explaining some of my problems and thanking her. She apologized
and asked if she could do anything, and I said 'no'. She told me she
would refund the entire last month of my second account that I was
cancelling since I hadn't used it, and was having so many problems.
I thought that was quite fair and was content.

This month I received my credit card bill to find two charges, one for
my shell account, and the other for 23.88 or some such amount.

Both of my accounts were only receiving mail. The one I had cancelled
had a .forward so no mail was stored there. My account was receiving
mail, but I checked it every 6-12 hours with my other account.

I called in yesterday (5-20-96) and spoke with Debbie in customer
service. She got my story and talked with Brenda in billing about
refunding it. Brenda had to verify that the person who cancelled my
account said she would process the refund. She didn't trust me.
Later I received a message that the credit had been refunded.

There is no reason I should have been charged for that account, and even
less of a reason there would be a higher amount as the previous months.
Despite this fact, it took a little convincing before anyone would believe
me about having files that would have increased the disk quota charge.
Debbie insisted several times that I must have a netcruiser account.
I assured her I didn't and she repeated "19.95 charge? You must have
a netcruiser account".

NO. I do NOT have a netcruiser account.


I am tired of being jacked around by different people. I asked to speak
with David Garrison (CEO of netcom). The operator would not give me
his extension, and instead transferd me to Bonnie someone. Bonnie
wasn't in and I only got her voice mail. Nice try.

I called back and asked for David again, gave my name and company
and ended up speaking with Laura Foss (David's assistant).

Here I am with my detailed complaint. I have given the above information
over the phone several times, each with no success. Hopefully
we can resolve these continued problems. Even though I am cancelling
my last account, I am still a paying customer and wish to get the
service I asked for.

As I have told numerous people at netcom, I used to work in a retail
environment where customers would ask me about the Internet. Every day,
almost hourly I would recommend netcom, and give the customer your
800 number, and what to ask for. As a college instructor teaching
business computer science to people who have never touched the computer,
I am constantly telling them the benefits of being on the net. Each
day, a new set of students ask me the best ISP to go through.

Since this letter has typed up I have moved on to doing computer
security consulting for Trident Data Systems. I am once again in
a position to deal with hundreds of people and recommend an ISP.

Until recently, I had always said Netcom. I can guarantee that I have
brought at *LEAST* one hundred customers to you. I consider that to be
a low end estimate. If that is the case, that means $24,000 a year revenue
for you. On top of that, I am paying $240 a year for one of my accounts.
Never did I receive a benefit for getting you those customers, never
did I receive any extra help after reminding people of that fact.

Currently, if you finger my remaining account (, you
will see a brief summary of my complaints. This is to help people
understand what kind of service they are looking at, or belong to.
Hopefully, things will be resolved so that I may remove that information,
and only keep my new information there.

I don't even know what to ask for to make me happy. Despite the fact you
have lost me as a customer, it is still possible to save me as a reference.
Despite the incredible lack of service, I *STILL* reccomend the
Netcruiser service in some cases.

Thank you.


ps: below is the last piece of mail I exchanged regarding these
    problems. As you will see, I have pointed out some serious
    gaps in service from some of your representatives.

From Wed May  8 10:33:06 1996
Date: Tue, 7 May 1996 22:39:01 -0700 (PDT)
From: Damien Sorder 
To: Ishmael Estrada 
Subject: Re: Your message of April 24, 1996

> I am sorry you feel that I am not being truthful with you.  I only
> received a copy of your April 24th message on April 30 and I tried looking
> for you in our database.  The closest I came to was a user, Mr Bob Martin
> in Colorado.  If you are not he, I apologize.  I called and left a
> message to Mr Martin's phone number in hopes of contacting you.

I am in there as Brian Martin. I have had this account for over a year.

> Did you establish a new account?  If so, are you also experiencing
> problems with that account as far as accessibility and reliability?

Yes. I removed one of the two from here, and have setup two on my new 
provider. I am waiting to take care of my numerous mailing lists before I 
drop this account. I am experiencing NO problems with my new provider. 
The sysadin answers my mail in a day if it is of any importance, and two 
days if I just mail him with 'hi'.

> We do acknowledge the delays on responding to our customers, on the phone
> and via e-mail.  We have instituted processes that are making
> significant progress in improving our service.  Obviously, we have a long
> ways to go and much to improve.

There has been NO improvement though. For over a year I keep hearing that 
and see no improvement. Support mail takes LONGER now, hold time is 
LONGER. I have read 'we are improving' for so long, but you aren't. Not 
even enought to keep the hold time the same. 

> I can only apologize for the lack of response you have experienced and
> say that we are working actively and aggressively to correct these
> shortcomings.  We do appreciate your feedback and we are addressing
> exactly those points to which you referred.

I have addresses just about everyone and anything. You say you can only 
apologize but that is just about pathetic. You should be saying "I am 
reporting these problems to my superiors, and suggesting some 
alternatives.. aside from that, what else can I do for you?". That is 
business 101.. nothing too complicated. I have never even received that 
until the day I closed my one account. 

> Is there anything I can do for you at this point?

I don't think so. This is the second time I have gotten good service. 
Both AFTER I closed my account. I talked vox with another customer 
service manager that day, and she was very helpful and very friendly.

I made a comment to her and I will repeat it to you. 

Had I received this good of service anywhere along the way, I would still 
be paying for both accounts, and still recommending your service. Like I 
told her, I know for sure I have brought 75 customers to you. I used to 
be a manager of the computer techs in a computer store, and now I am 
college instructor. My word is the bible to newcomers to the net. If I 
say 'netcom', then they will get an account from you.

I have mentioned this before.. I figure that alone would make someone 
appreciate me and the business I brought you. Despite that I have been 
abused by this service.