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Although one of the smaller internet service providers, this company has carved out a niche market for itself. Its focus seems to be largely on business broadband and it claims to be '100% dedicated to the needs of small businesses'. This commitment includes a UK-based support team that aims to answer calls in less than a minute, identify potential faults before they occur, achieve high uptime and fix faults quickly. As well as fast business broadband, it offers web hosting, server backup and e-commerce development and support.

Home broadband users aren't left out, with the homepage providing a link to three residential packages that are currently on offer. All have fast download and no speed restrictions. However, when you pay extra to go above the Home Lite package, you get an increased monthly usage allowance, free equipment and services, and a phone package at the top end with some free phone calls.

The company started in 1995 as SouthWest ISP. It launched its dial-up service in 1996 and a first broadband service five years later, the first in the UK that could be self-installed. Online ordering became available in 2003, another first for Eclipse broadband. The following year, the company was bought by KCOM plc, a Hull-based communications business that was previously known as Kingston Communications and operates the only UK telephone network not managed by BT. However, the company continues to trade independently from its Devon headquarters.

At the Internet Service Provider Awards in 2008, the company won the Best Consumer ISP, Best Business Broadband and Best Business Email categories. In the same year, it was a finalist for Best ISP in the PC Pro Awards while 2009 saw one of its call centre analysts win the UK Call Centre Hero Award. Nevertheless, customer reviews are somewhat variable with praise for speed, reliability and features countered by complaints about hidden charges, lost connections and a poor webmail service.

In November 2009, the company announced it was trialling web services on fibre optic technology by upgrading its network for use on BT's 21CN infrastructure. This is expected to provide maximum download speeds of 40 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload to both home and business customers.

The same month saw the company named as the recommended broadband supplier by SimplicITy, which launched a PC and operating system aimed at older people. Fronted by ex-Blue Peter presenter Valerie Singleton, the intention is to encourage IT novices aged over 50 to use computers by making available a simplified interface.

If you're trying to access the website, take care to enter the correct address of www.eclipse.net.uk, although www.eclipse.co.uk will redirect you there. However, www.eclipse.com brings up a US company, Data Net IT, which makes Eclipse desktops, workstations and servers. Input www.eclipse.net and you get another American company, Eclipse Internet Access, although you're redirected to their new parent company site - which begs the question why eClipse chose such an uncommon and difficult address for potential customers to remember?

The Eclipse packages aren't the cheapest around although they do promise fast download speeds. A big attraction to heavy users is that they got rid of their fair use policy in 2008 and so speeds aren't restricted. I might be a bit concerned that the main focus seems to be on business users. Being relatively small might be a worry, although they have the resources of a big company behind them. They did start trialling a combined broadband, TV and phone package back in 2005 although this doesn't seem to have made the product range. †



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