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ISP Call Failure Rates Decline Sharply in '98

Internet service providers are providing their dial-up modem customers with greatly improved Web connectivity over last year's efforts, according to a new report from Inverse Network Technology.

The measurement company finds that the average call failure rate among the major ISPs ranged from 33 to 60 percent better than the same period last year.

"Though only 10 months of the year have elapsed, we definitely can see a trend in the consumer's favor, with call failure rates way down even though the number of Internet users has grown substantially," said Mike Watters, Inverse president and chief executive officer.

The period garnering the most improved performance over the past year was from 6 p.m. to midnight, when Internet usage is heaviest. The report cited the example of the August 1998 call failure rate of 4.9 percent, dramatically lower than the 12.1 percent figure from August 1997.

In October, the most recent month measured, the call failure rate was 6.8 percent, down from 11.3 percent in October 1997.

Inverse said that 24-hour call failure rate figures for 1998 outperformed evening-hour rates, hitting a low of 3.6 percent in August.

Of the surveyed ISPs, AT&T WorldNet, Cable & Wireless (formerly internetMCI), BellAtlantic.net and Bell South.net, had the fewest number of call failures in October, the most recently measure period.

Specifically, AT&T WorldNet was found to have the best 24-hour score, with a call failure rate of 1.8 percent compared to the 4.6 percent industry average. WorldNet also had the best evening-hour call failure rate, coming in at 2.1 percent, compared to the 6.8 percent average. For business-hour failure rate, BellSouth captured was best with a failure rate of only 1.1 percent compared to the 5 percent average.

Inverse's measurements are conducted 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for a two-week period each month. Roughly 1,000 points of presence per month in 42 metropolitan regions are tested.

Call failure rates test a user's inability to connect to an ISP on the first try, due to problems including unanswered calls, busy signals, failed logins and modem glitches.

"While there are still wide variations among individual ISPs, as a group they seem to have taken user access problems seriously and made significant infrastructure investments to address them," Watters said.