AOL, MSN at bottom of provider heap

The Associated Press
Friday August 10, 2001

NEW YORK — The world’s two largest Internet service providers, AOL Time Warner Inc. and Microsoft Corp.’s MSN, came out on the bottom of a customer satisfaction survey. 

The survey released Thursday of 1,640 dial-up modem users gave high marks to AT&T WorldNet, BellSouth Corp. and EarthLink Inc. for overall satisfaction. Consumer Reports magazine conducted the survey. 

MSN got the survey’s lowest overall rating, due to dissatisfaction with e-mail, technical support and reliability of its dial-up connections, said David Heim, the Yonkers, N.Y.-based magazine’s managing editor. 

“If you’re paying $20 for a busy signal it’s not going to make you a happy camper,” Heim said. 

Respondents also identified AOL as unreliable in terms of quick and sustained dial-up access, said Heim. 

“What seemed to matter most was being able to get on line in a hurry and stay online without being kicked off,” he said. 

Sixty percent of AOL users answering the survey reported an interruption in their connection during the previous month, the worst rating among all ISPs examined, Heim said. 

Users of AOL-owned CompuServe rated it next-worst for dropped connections, Heim said. 

Conversely, just 33 percent of AT&T WorldNet and EarthLink services reported similar disconnections, he said. 

AT&T WorldNet was the top choice for connection speed and reliability and offered the best array of low-cost plans. 

Users also gave AT&T’s e-mail service highest ratings. 

Technical support assessments also favored the higher-rated providers and panned AOL, CompuServe and MSN, said Heim. 

“We’re not painting AOL out to be a horrible company,” said Heim. “They still kept a majority of the respondents satisfied. AT&T just did a much better job overall.” 

MSN product manager Mark Wain said Microsoft continues to upgrade its service to keep pace with growth in its user base. 

“We’re building out as fast as we can,” Wain said. “It’s an ongoing process for us.” 

AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein declined to comment on the specifics of the survey. “Our members have never been more satisfied,” he said noting that the magazine gave AOL high marks in ease of use and other areas. 

The survey users reported choosing AOL — the world’s largest Internet service provider, with 30 million users — primarily to communicate with friends and access its user-friendly Web browser. AOL was also chosen for strong parental controls, the magazine reported. 

The magazine’s September issue will carry a full report of the survey, which asked about overall satisfaction, connection availability, speed and interruptions, support, e-mail and downloads. 


On the Net: 

Consumer Reports magazine: http://www.consumerreports.org