At some point or the other, we’ve all put ourselves through the agony of whacking our internet devices with chappals or hit them against tables in an attempt to humiliate them into working, whilst praying for the lights to come on. For those tiny LEDs to shine, like little portable suns, and brighten up our otherwise miserable days. For them to be all yellow, and not red. Sometimes this humiliating treatment yields results, but at other times the ‘dhitai’ (i.e. perseverance not in a good way) is so agonizingly strong, it reduces grown men to the sort of tears you only expect from kids who’ve been denied a trip to the playground. Especially when the latest episode of Game of Thrones NEEDS to be downloaded.
When reduced to such tears, the only recourse then is to pick up the phone and dial the Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) customer care department – which sometimes reduces one to more tears. Here’s how the drill goes: you are asked to restart your device, change router location, alter settings and configurations. The latest gem from one of our customer service reps was “turn [the router] towards Baloch colony.” Yes now we are supposed to keep track of where the nearest tower is located to try and catch signals as if we were trying to catch butterflies in a net!
But mostly, customer care service will insist it’s not them – it’s you. Like a heartless paramour who wishes to make it clear that the fractures in the amour are not her fault. It’s you. It has always been you. And just like with the paramour; customer care too leaves you feeling a little worse about yourself, often curled up in a corner, wishing you could be better. From the wiring you use inside your house, to the lines that are supposed to be provided by the telecommunications authority, to the thickness of the walls in your house and the height at which your modem/router has been placed, to which device you use – all of which affect connectivity and speed – you are the ones responsible for it all.
Unfortunately for us, there is no way we can “fix” the main lines provided by the telecommunications authority, and for us simple minded folks, concepts of IPv6 addresses and DNS Servers are too overwhelming to even try to address. The latter is a concept even customer care finds hard to grasp. So why is the end user supposed to know this? WE ARE NOT TECH PEOPLE. WE DON’T KNOW WHAT AN IPv6 IS! AND WE SHOULDN’T HAVE TO EITHER! How would customer care like it if I asked them to provide me with critique on the Constitution of Pakistan?
“I don’t know why the internet is not working, seems fine at our end,” says the customer care rep. And we are back at square one.: “Well it clearly isn’t and I cannot fix it, hence I called customer care, so can you please send someone to address the problem?” pouring out my angst.
And therein lies the next problem for us simple folk. You see, our ISPs seem to think they are providing us with a privilege – not a service we PAY good money for. So we are expected be good kids and really make them feel good for bestowing such a great favour upon us. We must call them a minimum of four times before anyone is sent. For the record, the only other times the author has called ANYONE the same number of times in quick succession is when he felt extremely lonely. But I digress. When a technician finally does arrive to your residence or office, the first thing he clearly establishes is that everything is perfect at the back end and any problem that may exist is only in your modem/computer/phone/existence. As if I don’t feel bad enough about my life already.
If we’re lucky, one trip from the technician is all it takes to sort all the problem out – for the moment, till the next day or week when the same problem manifests itself, YET AGAIN. Which is sad because you spend more time on the phone on hold, listening to a horrible rendition of Beethoven’s 9th symphony, praying for customer care to finally deem you worthy of their attention and pick up the phone, than it takes to actually fix the problem.
The lack of diligence on the part of ISPs is a stark reminder of how customers in the industry are taken for granted and ISPs feel no need to improve – rather maintain – quality of service provided to customers.
This is in all reality the same reason why faster, smoother, more consistent internet at more competitive prices has still not found its way to Pakistan. Afterall, who cares about the customer. We all accept the little we are offered, and no amount of complaints make anything better in an industry with no competition and little motivation for providers to improve their services. And so the lugubrious litany for the average internet user in Pakistan continues, leaving end users frustrated in its wake.
NOTE: Half way through the writing of this article, all three internet connections at Bolo Bhi Headquarters decided to stage a co-ordinated walkout and the author shamelessly blames the lack of access to the world wide web and inherent frustration as a result, for any faults you may find in the article.