Those of you who were up all night worrying about my Hotmail can now rest easy. After a process so tedious and convoluted that only a large faceless organisation could come up with it, I have managed to get my account back.
The poster who pointed out that if you aren't paying then you are not really a customer in their eyes had it about right. (Although I don't know if their service is any better if you are paying). It is very easy to enthusiastically sign up for something, use it so much that it becomes essential and then when it crashes you are stuffed because you never asked yourself- "What happens when it goes wrong?"
I had a similar problem with Orange Broadband recently. I happily signed up to their cheap deal but the router didn't work properly and kept dropping the connection. When I tried to contact Orange, they put me through to technical support in Bombay (why do they call it Mumbai nowadays?) An Indian man who could only understand very basic English followed a script and drove me slowly up the wall. He cannot put you through to anybody in the UK and cannot help you either. Why should he care though- he is in Mumbai, he has told you that his name is "Kevin" and he knows that you will never get to speak to him again.
To cut a long and tedious story short, I was sent two more identical routers that dropped the connection equally regularly and reached about half of my house. I told them I wanted to move and was informed that I would have to pay a fee. I ignored this along with their subsequent demands and moved to Yorkshire based Plusnet. When I told their sales lady about my problems with Orange, she responded with "By 'eck!" and a couple of "tha"s, which I found most reassuring. I have been promised that I will never have to speak to anyone who does not know how to keep pigeons or make a strong cup of tea. Based on my experiences so far, I urge you to join me.