Network: Feedback

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I READ with interest your article on the alternatives to dial- up services for Internet access, and, in particular, chello's proposed cable service ("Best in the world? No, worst in the EC", Network, 26 April, http://www. story4.html).

Here in Strasbourg, I have had Internet access via cable for around 18 months, and it's not all good news. True, the standing-charge system means that you don't have to worry about the telephone bill; but the service is slow (slower than my dial-up connection, which I keep as a back-up) and subject to frequent breakdowns.

Such is the general disappointment with the service that several user- groups have sprung up to give subscribers a platform from which they can express their dissatisfaction (http:// tranbert/luccas.htm or http://www.lotz. org/cybercable/ index2.html).

A fact often overlooked in evaluating the desirability of cable services is that the network is usually in the hands of a local monopoly, on a franchise basis. There is inevitably a danger that the absence of competition leads to complacency and neglect of customers - as seems to have happened here in Strasbourg.

This problem is not limited to France; the provision of cable services - telephone, television and Internet - is big business and crosses national frontiers. Our service provider is Lyonnaise Cable, a subsidiary of Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux, which has wide business interests throughout the world, including in the UK.

In short, Internet via the cable is great in principle, but by no means a panacea in practice.

David Crowe

Strasbourg, France

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