Wednesday, October 31, 2007

With Great Power Comes Great Irresponsibility

My troubles with BSNL DSL Broadband continue. It has been three months since it went down and I have yet to get a single sympathetic or sensible response from them. More than just the outage, it is the outrage that bothers me. The power they wield, the immunity they enjoy and their ability to make you feel powerless. In that sense, PSUs are a great equaliser-- whether I am in Bangalore or in Bihar!

Managed to make their chaps visit my house only twice since first registering the complaint. The first time, he told my wife the problem is with LAN cable that connects modem to laptop. Change that it will work! The second time, he said we cannot test without laptop. We will come back when your husband is home!

The issue is rather simple: the ADSL link is down. The SNR on the line keeps fluctuating between 0 dB and 22 dB. If they fix the physical line, that would fix everything. But since the voice calls work fine, lineman insists line is OK. Dataone guy insists there is nothing they can do (except send me a bill every month!) unless the local exchange fixes the line.

I have visited the customer care. The much-hyped centres opened in every locality to sell you the forms for new services. They passed me to the JTO. I called the helpdesk number at 1500. They passed me on to 18004241600. After averaging 6 minutes on hold, I get an agent who merrily gives me a new Docket Number each time and goes on to twiddle their thumbs at me-- I am here, sir, but I cannot do anything sir.

"Sorry saar, can you call to Exchange saar? It is local lead issue saar. ADSL is OK saar"
"Sorry saar, there is no escalation number or contact person. Please call to JTO saar"
"Sorry saar, we cannot do anything saar. Please call to JTO saar"
"OK saar, if you wants to disconnect connection. But even that we cannot do here saar. Please contact to Exchange saar..."

And to think my taxes pay his salary every month, just to sit there and gurgle :-(

I even made a list of all the docket numbers I collected for posterity. Maybe someday the son of a BSNL GM will be educated enough to go through Blogs and sympathise with me and ask his papa to take action on the docket!

Visits to the exchange are wasted, since the officer, (the famous JTO!) Mr.Sidappa, is never there. Everyone brandishes his number 080-2012-4087 but no one ever picks it up! I even received an acknowledgement on a signed complaint. They stamped it while smirking "Kya Ukhaad Lega?" which, unfortunately, is not far from the truth.

I took cell numbers of linemen, a Mr.Arun at 98449-76859. I sent emails to the so-called nodal officers listed on No ack to the email, only more gurgle from the linemen.

The trouble is, I live in an area that has no Airtel broadband feasibility (Considering they've not arranged it in past 5 years, maybe I'm better off without Airtel!!). The comforts of public-sector monopoly in spectrum allocation make it very difficult to expect any service from BSNL/MTNL. There is no organised forum or recourse in India to make these people help you or pay for the harassement! So I blog instead.

In recent years, India's success story has outpaced even our own wild imaginations. Today, my boss in the US finds it hard to believe delays due to power outage or flooded roads or no DSL in India's Silly-Con Valley! Yet, these are real issues. There is a limit to how far we can cover up for our inefficiencies and costs, by leveraging the mega-population and weak rupee. If we continue to ignore basics like Communication, Transport, Power and Security it will not be long before smaller countries play catch-up. Already, a mere 10% rise in rupee has made some BPOs and Textile Exporters shut shop.

As for me, I guess I am relegated to the backwaters of the Information Highway until I can find an Uncle who works for BSNL or rent a house in Airtel territory!!

PS: An update on Nov 3 -- The Link is UP!!! God knows if this is a coincidence, but immediately after I vented on the blog, that guy Arun came and changed the modem, line cable, splitter, everything. I now have a proper UTStarcom modem (instead of that lousy Huawei junk) and (touchwood) link has stayed up past 3 days :-)

I am happy