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@Bigger.net customers without access

Customers of one-time fee ISP @bigger.net have been lacking Net access and email for at least a week, even after Brigadoon.com stepped in.

    Customers of one-time fee ISP @bigger.net have been without Internet access and email for more than a week, even after Brigadoon.com bailed out the failed Net access provider, Brigadoon executives confirmed.

    About 18,000 @bigger.net subscribers--who paid $59.95 for a lifetime of service--cannot surf the Internet or send and receive email, according to Brigadoon.com chief executive John Hansen.

    But @bigger.net customers could be back online as early as this week, Hansen said.

    "We're in the process of firming up a contract with a backbone provider for the @bigger.net customers," he said.

    After months of financial trouble, @bigger.net filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in October. Washington-based Brigadoon's $275,000 purchase of @bigger.net closed last month.

    The lack of service is a disappointment for users who saw Brigadoon as their savior after the sale. Customers of @bigger.net, which served the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California, are not happy because they expected service for life as part of the $60 deal they had with @bigger.net.

    "There have been some complaints [from @bigger.net customers]," said Wendy Smith, an attorney for the @bigger.net estate at the law firm of Rosenblum, Parish & Isaacs.

    Hansen said his company's contracts with service providers MFS WorldCom and Concentric Network expired about ten days ago.

    "[Brigadoon.com's] anticipated means of providing service fell through and as a result they're having to use a new provider," Smith said. "The bottom line is creditors who are owed a lot of money are not usually interested in continuing a lot of deals."

    If Brigadoon.com cannot secure a new Internet backbone provider for @bigger.net customers soon, another possibility would be to switch them to brigadoon.com accounts. "But that means they need to convert DNS (domain name system) numbers, and passwords and new user IDs," Hansen said.

    Brigadoon intends to continue to serve @bigger.net customers. But, having bought only its subscriber list and hard assets such as servers, it is under no legal obligation to keep providing that access, experts said.

    "Brigadoon does not have any responsibility to honor customers' previous commitments with @bigger.net," said Suzanne Decker, the Chapter 7 trustee who handled the bankruptcy case. "[Brigadoon was] happy to keep the customer base, but they are under no legal obligation to continue service."

    Decker said subscribers should wait to see what Brigadoon can do, but they in the meantime also can file a claim with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in San Jose for their $60.

    She warned, however, that it is unlikely that every former @bigger.net subscriber will be successful in recouping losses.