Why I'm Not With Cyberus Any More

I used to use Cyberus as my ISP. Now I don't. Here's why.

Good evening, here is the news. And turning to sports, we wish you good night.

My service with Cyberus had been excellent for several years. The first sign that things were going bad came around the end of May 2000, when I noticed that I was missing a lot of news messages on the newsgroups that I read thoroughly. Checking with DejaNews confirmed that I was never getting to see at least 2/3, perhaps 3/4, of the messages in those low-traffic groups; this confirmed that the apparent low message volume was a local problem.

When I wrote to Cyberus to ask when the problem would be solved, I was told that E-mail and news are fundamentally unreliable media, that I shouldn't count on seeing all messages, etc. That they were getting their newsfeed from two highly-reliable feeds, etc. Weasel words. Yes, the electronic media are not perfectly reliable, but I expect to miss only occasional messages, not a majority of them. There had obviously been a sudden drastic change in the service; obviously something had been changed or broken. This was a problem that should have been fixed, not talked away.

Our system is completely automatic. Nothing can possibly go wrong... go wrong... go wrong...

The next sign of trouble came after my block-hours account expired. By this time, Cyberus had merged with Eisa, and the block-hours option was no longer offered. The customer-service representative told me that I could continue to use my old account and pay for the hours I used, at the hourly rate for excess hours as defined for the block-hours account. I specifically asked about continuing to use the old account, and was told that as long as I paid for my hours within 30 days of being billed, the account would remain active. I was assured that the old account would not be cut off without plenty of notice.

And then, of course, my account was cut off, without warning. I discovered this when my E-mail suddenly stopped working. When I called to inquire, I was told that my block-hours account had been deactivated. The service rep told me that it would be reactivated in an hour or so, but suggested that I should switch over to a monthly-service account. He "explained" that my account had accidentally been terminated automatically by their accounting system.

Over the next couple of months, the same thing happened several more times. Each time, the "explanation" was that the change had been made automatically by their accounting system and that nothing could be done to stop it. I was advised to switch to a monthly account. Eventually, I did. And I started looking for another ISP.

And then I started receiving multiple messages from Cyberus' accounting system, informing me that my account balance was $0.00 and must be paid within 30 days. Little bursts of identical messages, three or four every few weeks. Accounting person Carolyn Rowe-Dunn "explained" that these messages were, again, generated automatically by their accounting system any time my account was processed by their system even when there was no resulting change in my account. I ended up complaining about this problem several times over several months. The response was always the same: complete incomprehension as to why this might be annoying to the customer and should be stopped.

My basic point was that overdue notices and account information bulletins should be sent only when there's some change that the customer should be informed about. Otherwise one wastes download time, mailbox space, and reading time in trying to figure out what information is supposed to be conveyed. A system that automatically sends meaningless notices is not working properly. As I pointed out to Rowe-Dunn, the Cyberus personnel needed to either learn how to use their software properly, so it didn't keep sending such garbage (and inappropriately terminating accounts without warning!), or -- if the software could not be made to work properly -- switch to software that worked.

It was after only a month or so of this that I signed up with Sympatico. It was pretty obvious that the Cyberus situation was deteriorating; I needed reliable service for job-hunting and for personal reasons. I changed all of my web pages at Cyberus to simple redirections to corresponding pages on my Sympatico site. I maintained my Cyberus site in this way for a few months, until most search engines and web surfers knew to find me at Sympatico, then switched over to Cyberus' E-mail-forwarding-only service, which I intended to keep up for another six or eight months.

"I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further."

I continued to receive occasional garbage messages from Cyberus' automated accounting system, and complaining about it didn't get me anywhere. The last straw came just after mid-February of 2001. At the beginning of the month I'd received my usual account statement, noting the service charge for mail forwarding and stating that the bill was due for payment within 30 days, on March 3rd. This kind of notification is a good thing, alerting the customer to important information. Receiving two more notices with that information, though, was unwelcome and irritating, and I so informed Cyberus.

And on February 16th, I received a notice stating that my account was overdue. I wrote back stating that my account was not overdue, and quoting the previous statement they'd sent me. A couple of days later, I received a reply from Rowe-Dunn: "Your account was inadvertenly included in those sent automated overdue notices. The payment period on accounts changed to 15 days from 30 days on February 15. This meant that accounts with balances owing past 15 days would be considered overdue."

And on February 26th, I received another notice stating that my account was overdue. I replied, stating that, again, my account was not overdue, and that I would be cancelling my account immediately. Per Cyberus policy, I could only give that notification in writing or directly through my Cyberus account -- and, of course, since I no longer had a Cyberus account that I could send E-mail from, I had to do the notice-in-writing thing. I received the official form by fax from Cyberus, completed it, and returned it, stating that I wished to have my account terminated as of the end of the period for which I'd just paid: February 28th.

Whereupon my account was cancelled -- instantly. I called them on the 27th to complain and was told that the account processing was done and could be undone only by the accounts people. I then received a note by E-mail from Rowe-Dunn, informing me that my account had been cancelled per my request; noting, in response to my note of the 26th, that their accounting policy had changed to 15-day notice and that their user agreement gave them the right to change terms without notice; that I had informed her that I wanted to cancel my account immediately (which is NOT what I had said); that their user agreement allowed them to cancel any account at any time for any reason, without giving a refund. "We regret the inconvenience this has caused."

I replied to that, pointing out that regardless of anything in their agreement about changing terms without notice, they could NOT change terms retroactively for a service period already in progress, and that for that, along with arbitrary cancellation of accounts, "You certainly can lose a lot of business by pulling such stunts. I'll be doing my best to help."

I didn't receive any reply to that. But that's why I've created this page.


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