Saturday, March 04, 2006

Telkom's Greedy Incompetence

In South Africa there is no choice for consumer ADSL: regardless of which ISP use, you still get the same shocking service from our favourite monopoly: Telkom. I pay R850 per month (that's US$ 138) for "broadband" connectivity: 3GB downloads, 384kbs nominal download speed, 128kbs upload speed, and a mandatory disconnection every 6 hours.
Why the disconnect? Because they think I'm a criminal who is going to steal too much bandwidth from them. But it's Telkom who is the criminal: if I'm in the middle of downloading a 32MB podcast file at the time the disconnect happens, then the download stops, because the iTunes software can't cater for such a long delay in downloading. So I have to download it all from the beginning again, effectively giving away 16MB of my 3GB allocation. Since 3GB works out at 100MB per day, 16MB is no longer a trivial amount.
But wait, there's more! The measurement of the traffic happens at the local exchange, so if anyone decides to do a port scan or ping my router, I pay for the privilege. A few months ago I lost out on 300MB because of a virus on someone else's PC was attacking my router. And Telkom still hasn't found the culprit: I get attacked every month, and they do nothing about it. Fortunately I have upgraded my router software so that it includes a firewall that blocks the incoming traffic and doesn't respond. But in a given month I throw away at least 50MB of traffic because of this.
Then there's the weird way you have to report a problem. Recently the local exchange started doing weird things, so I phoned their fault reporting number 0800-DSL-DSL to ask what was going on. They said it was a network problem with my exchange, and I then had to argue with the Helpdesk Orc to get a fault reference number. He kept trying to tell me it wasn't his fault. What kind of a response is that? It's almost as bad as Sentech, the other state-owned "service" provider.
Why should they care? The people who have to do the work can get away with being incompetent because their bosses are even more so, and the bosses have no incentive because their short term profits go up. But customers have a long-term memory: both of my brothers refuse to even have a Telkom land line because of this kind of approach. And as soon as I can afford ADSL from a different network operator, I'll be changing too, assuming the SNO is any better.

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