Thursday, July 24, 2008

Do I have a broadband connection?

I think I do :-) But I am not sure BSNL thinks so. Here is what happened...

In May, I applied for a broadband connection from BSNL. In June, I got it. I went to their office every week, diligently, and one day they said – Ma’am, you’ve been blessed with a broadband connection by the almighty BSNL. Here is your username and password J I was elated. My husband and I had had such a terrible time with Sify that we were yearning for the BSNL connection, despite the horror stories we had heard about their customer service.

On June 7th 2008, the residents of Padmanabhanagar would have seen me walking back home from the BSNL office with a big smile on my face and a small chit of paper in my hand – that tiny scrap of paper with the username and password scribbled on it by the supervisor at the desk was the only proof that I had a broadband connection! I asked for more details... the IP address perhaps, but they refused to help me in any other way, since I used a ‘private modem’ (it was a standard model, but I was using my own modem and not the one supplied by them). So, after a bit of a struggle and some calls to the BSNL call centre, I got the broadband running on my computer (for those of you who don’t know, they have a call centre for broadband queries – 1800 424 1600).

However, right from the start it so happened that my connection would get cut every time we got an incoming call! So, I called the customer care again, and they confirmed that it was not a problem with my modem’s settings but with the line, so they would lodge a complaint.

A month went by, nothing happened. I would just get calls once in a while asking if my telephone worked. Every time, I would say, yes it did, and explain the disconnection problem I faced. Still the problem persisted.

And then one day, the connection went on the blink – totally! Two lights went down on the modem! So, I called customer care again, and they said the problem was again with the line, but they could not register a complaint because the previous one (lodged more than a month ago) was still pending!

So, off I went to the exchange again, but even before I could explain what the problem was, the supervisor there shut me up saying 500 lines were down and would be repaired. I went to the office every day, for a week, only to get the same reply. Till one day, I managed to barge past the supervisor and tell the lady at the computer that my telephone line WAS working but my broadband connection wasn’t. She pulled up some records, and very nicely told me, “Madam, you do not have a broadband connection. Your application is still pending!” What?! I had been using the broadband connection for over a month, and even paid for it. So, how come I don’t have a connection?

I was confused and tried to explain the problem to her. After thinking for a while, she asked me... if it is true that you do have a connection, tell me your username and password. For some reason, she insisted on knowing the password to ascertain if my claim was true or not. Unable and unwilling to argue with her, I gave her the details. She believed me. She pulled up the records, changed the status to “repeat complaint” and promised to get it fixed asap. And it was. The next day, I got a call from the engineer in the morning, asking what the problem was, and he fixed it immediately. If only they had heard me out, perhaps the problem would have been sorted out even earlier.

Well, that is not the end of the story. The ADSL link was up, but for some reason the PPPOE connection never went through. The connection status remained, “Cannot reach PPP server.” Customer care again! However, the moment the customer support guys asked me for the modem model number and I answered, they would reply saying, “Sorry madam, we do not support private modems.” Oh my God, most modems have the same settings, and D-Link was such a standard model, couldn’t they at least try and see what the problem is?

After repeated calls, I at last reached a guy who seemed to be awake and prepared to try fixing the problem... after 45 minutes on the call, he realised that the problem was at the server-end and fixed it! On July 22nd 2008, I got connected to the Internet, at last.

Having gone online after a long time, I pinged my brother on GTalk, and said, “Hey, my Internet is back!” Lo and behold, the lights went off! Therein begins another story – the saga of power cuts in Bangalore :-)

PS1: I learnt quite a few lessons through this experience. Firstly, never argue with a Government employee. Be polite, almost subservient. They need to ‘bless’ you with service. Please, good morning, thank you, sir and madam are good words to use – and they do have a good influence on the Government staff, and achieve the desired results. I do not blame them – they probably have enough people screaming at them, so politeness is a welcome respite even for them!

PS2: When you call customer support, remember that you are reaching a call centre. So, every time you call, a different person will pick up the phone. So, if one of the professionals you reach seems clueless or unhelpful, don’t waste your time. Cut and call again. Chances are that if you call six times, you will reach one person who doesn’t belong in front of that dumb terminal and overused headset! He or she will hear, think, and sort out your problem.

PS3: Six months in the Silicon Valley of India, without a stable Internet connection, working from home! How did I manage? My husband and dad who were confident that we could (at any expense) find a way out to let me work uninterrupted, egging me on to patiently overcome poor customer service and somehow get the connection – even when I lost my cool. Not to forget my work associates who never complained about my short and sometimes slightly delayed responses! Best of all... a Reliance Netconnect data card that continued to work even after our card had been rendered invalid due to a wrong recharge done at the local Reliance World store!

PS4: I hope this connection continues to work!

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