Internet service: it’s more fun in the Philippines

23 Jun

I woke up at past 4 am this morning. That was a bit unusual as that would be like… 3 am in Jakarta, which is 1.5 hours earlier than my usual wake-up time. Anyways, I decided to watch some Orange is the New Black on Netflix when all of a sudden my connection was gone. I was redirected to this page, with the horrible news:

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So it turned out that I had reached the 30 GB data cap for this particular service. 30 GB for home wi-fi. For Php 999 per month, you get an allowance of 30 GB. Use up more than that, and you’d have to avail of a “volume booster”, the most expensive of which is 10GB for about Php 250. Otherwise you will have no internet connection at all until the next billing cycle.

This is complete and utter bullshit. Highway robbery. For one, heavy users like me can easily use up 30 GB in less than a week, considering that I use Netflix, listen to songs on Spotify, and many other things that I would be better off not listing here. But yeah, that’s just ridiculous. Data caps on mobile internet is understandable and common, but home wifi? Really?

Also, I didn’t know that there was a data cap. We had suffered through SmartBro internet connection for years. We had what they called “Canopy”. Later on I tried upgrading to Wimax, and the salesguy enthusiastically signed me up, and while he told me that I may have to have the old account disconnected, I thought it could not be helped because it was an upgrade. It turned out that they had run out of Wimax units, but they cut off our connection anyway. Because we couldn’t wait more than a week without internet, we were forced to get their Canopy service again, complete with an installation fee and a two-year lock in contract. I complained to the Smart center about them disconnecting my old connection without assurance that the Wimax will be installed, but it was to no avail. It was a very frustrating experience.

And so, more than two years after the new connection (which was worse than the first because there were days that there was no service at all, and if there was it was terribly slow), PLDT merged with Smart. The house in front of us availed of a phone and internet bundle, and from what I heard it was faster and more reliable. I wanted it, too, but then since I am away from the Philippines most of the year and the account was in my name, my sister couldn’t have it upgraded.

But then one day, some guys showed up and installed the new PLDT Homebro LTE. Only my dad was at home. They said that I had applied for it before (I couldn’t for the life of me remember that – at the very least I had just asked, but as for filling up an application form or anything – I did no such thing), but it was free and so my dad just let them do their thing. My sister told me that the connection was better. But yeah, the 30GB data cap. Had we been told that there was one, we wouldn’t have agreed to get it installed. The problem was, PLDT-Smart did not communicate with me in any way or form that they would be signing us up for that wifi service, nor was there any information about the data cap. My dad would not know to ask. He can’t even use a fucking cell phone. We got entrapped into another 2 year contract (wait, did I even sign anything?), i.e., we gotta put up with this for a couple more years.

So yeah, since I cannot live without Internet, and since I do not have a Smart SIM card anymore, I used up all my mobile credits on Globe (standing outside of my house because of poor reception – one would think I live in a forest) calling their help line. I was able to get the account number (they never mailed us a bill) and then buy that stupid volume booster.

What a life.

I’m pretty sure a lot of the situations that we were subjected to are irregualr if not downright illegal (i.e, two-year lock in period with no actual contract, incomplete information about the data cap, not telling us in writing beforehand that there were guys doing a job order – they could be robbers for fucks sake), not sending a bill through post or email. But then what does the government do? I’m not even sure if these two telcos (yes, they are only basically two) are regulated. If they are, then the regulatory board is entirely incompetent. PLDT-Smart has basically captive customers, because there are no options. And even that foreign telco that tried to enter the market was shooed away by an alliance of Globe and PLDT-Smart with intimidation. There’s no hope for the Philippines as long as situations like these are tolerated and perpetuated. It’s maddening. But then people like me can’t change anything.

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