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Flashcom Hangs Up On Customers

Digital subscriber line provider Flashcom has decided not to answer the phone Monday in response to growing customer outcry over poor service.

Calls this morning to technical support, billing and main business line asked customers to wait on the line if they have a question pertaining to billing. Waiting on the line, however, prompted a "due to unusually high volume of calls, we are unable to process your phone call. Please try again later" response, followed by the sound of the phone hanging up.

This afternoon the company took off support phone contact information altogether from its Web site, although the phone number for signup is still available.

An email request for information to Richard Rasmus, Flashcom chief executive officer and president, was the only means of contacting the ISP, and was unanswered.

It's a problem that's left customers without Internet service and without a remedy to the many problems the broadband Internet service provider is experiencing.

It's also a sign of continued trouble for the broadband provider headquartered in Huntington Beach, CA, and many like it, already in hot water for failing to pay its DSL bill to Covad Communications.

Covad, with financial troubles of its own, has reportedly been switching the lines from its less-dependable ISPs to paying ISP customers.

Martha Sessums, Covad vice president of corporate communications, said she wants to assure customers that while the company is working with Flashcom through some billing issues, it will not cut service to end users.

"Covad has not, and won't, take any steps to discontinuing service to DSL end users," Sessums said. "Also, there are no technical problems on our end that suggest there is a problem. If people are having problems, they should contact (Flaschcom), but I'd like to assure the customer that (Covad) hasn't pulled the plug on any customers.

"It wouldn't make good business sense to pull the plug on service," Sessums continued. "If the customer is experiencing problems and they can't get a response to their support questions, they should find another ISP by visiting the Web site of another provider in their area or Covad. But it makes no sense to cut them off, in fact, we're bending over backwards to help Flashcom and customers resolve their problems."

One Flashcom customer had reported a conversation with a Covad employee who said the competitive local exchange carrier is getting ready to pull the plug on the ISP. According to Covad policy, the ISP is responsible for notifying its customers about the pending termination and providing a release form for jettisoned customers.

"Not that we're ever going to get notified," the customer commented.

For more than a year, the ISP has been plagued with an infrastructure that has left the majority of Flashcom customers disappointed and canceling its service.

In some cases, people were not billed for their service from day one, while others, trying to cancel service, found they were required to pay stiff disconnection fines.

Anthony Ettinger, a former customer, said the ISPs lack of service was compounded by the hidden charges found in the service contract when he tried to cancel the service. "When I asked a Flashcom rep about canceling (my service), they said to send an email and they will decide whether or not to refund the $100 deposit," Ettinger said. "I am just now finding out about the hidden $250 cancellation fee via this Web site, not to mention a 39 month service agreement, as I was never given an written agreement or contract."