Friday, July 25, 2008

AGAIN!!

Can you believe it... my BSNL connection is down AGAIN!!! I called the customer support only to be told that it's a problem at the local exchange. So, the walks to the telephone exchange begin again. I know BSNL service is not going to improve any time soon, but in the bargain I hope I at least lose a few kilos... worrying about the connection and walking to the exchange!

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!

A long cable cut short

This is such a long story, I don’t know where to start and where to end! Essentially, when we moved into Padmanabhanagar six months ago, we heard that there were only two ISPs operating here – BSNL and Sify. BSNL told us that a new connection would take around 6-8 weeks to materialise. Since I work from home and needed Internet badly, we decided to go for Sify instead. We called customer care, and promptly within two days, a guy called Sudhir came home, booked our connection, took an advance, gave us what seemed like a “receipt”, and promised to give the connection within three working days. Three grew to seven, seven grew to 14 days, and there was still no sight of the guy!

After we called again, another guy came – this time, a Mr Chethan. Sudhir had shut shop and would no longer be catering to our area, he said. So, it was now over to dealing with Chethan, who said he will take the advance from Sudhir, but insisted that he will not do the wiring till we paid in full. So, we paid the remaining Rs 6900/- Sify charges a whopping Rs 1800/- for installation, while most other ISPs offer it at more competitive rates if not a complete waiver; however, the brochure promised a discount of over Rs 700 if we paid for six months in advance, so we did, little knowing what was in store. We got something which we thought was the “receipt”.

The guy who came so promptly to collect the payment disappeared after that. He would speak on the verge of tears and explain all his troubles to us, whenever we called to enquire about the status of our connection. And one day, we flew off the handle and threatened to take a BSNL connection if he didn’t do the wiring within a day. So, the wires came. After a dozen more calls and threats an idiot of an “engineer” came to setup our connection. He became tense the moment he saw that we had Windows Vista. He threw in the towel when he found we had a wireless router too. So, with a little help from him (nothing more than providing the IP addresses and the Sify dialer), we set up the connection all by ourselves, and it started working.

One month went by, with us being able to use the Internet whenever Chethan’s server was not down, which was not much, by the way. Then came the first week of March, and we were greeted by a new error message: “Invalid quota/account expired!” What the heck, we thought! After all, we had paid in advance for six months. We called customer service, and they said our account had been renewed only for a month.
Why?
That is how it works. Your local agent has to pay us next month’s subscription and only after that we will renew the account.
Oh, so will you contact the local agent or should I?
You have to remind him, madam.

So, we were back at the mercy of the Honourable Shri Chetan Ji. His father wouldn’t be well. He would not be in town. He would be in hospital. He would have no money in his account. All the calamities known in this world would befall him only when our account had to be renewed.

After another week, a call to the customer support again.
Hi, the local agent is not renewing my a/c despite repeated reminders?
Oh ok, shall I lodge a complaint?
Yes, please.

A few more days go by...
Hi, my a/c has still not been renewed?
Oh, is it so madam, let me check the status of your complaint?
We have reminded your local agent. He’ll be doing it.
I am confident he is not. So, what further action are you going to take?
We can only remind him ma’am. He only has to renew the a/c. We cannot do anything.
So, am I Sify’s customer or the local agent’s? What responsibility do you take for the poor service I am getting?

After giving up on customer care, we would call the local agent repeatedly till he renews the a/c. The same ordeal continued every month, for four months.

Last month...
We are unable to reach the local agent, our Internet a/c has not been renewed, and worse still, we are not even able to reach the Sify account... we have no clue whether the cable has been cut somewhere or what. Shrimaan Chethan Maharaj has changed his telephone number, so we cannot even reach him.


After several desperate calls to Sify customer care, we realised that Sify is as useless as its local agents. They wish to take absolutely no responsibility for the kind of service you get. Whether it is a connectivity issue or a renewal related one, the call centre simply lends a patient ear to your rants – they initiate NO action and make it very clear that you have to contact your local agent for any further response. What was even more ridiculous than this response was the fact that they do not keep customer records for more than two months, so the person at the other end of the phone had no clue how MANY complaints we had given. What about those blessed issues that are not solved even after two months? Ask God or somebody from Sify – the former might be easier!

Now, we were – totally – at the mercy of the local agent. With Rs 1800/- paid for the installation, and two months of service pending from the six we’d paid for, we had around Rs 2800/- at stake, looking at it on a pro rata basis!

So, we decided to go and knock at the doors of Mr Chethan. However, we realised the door we knocked on was not his! When we reached the address given to us by him, we realised that it was not his office and that we were not the first gullible nuts to reach there! There had been several others who had come searching for Chethan, and the people at that address made it very clear that Sify is the worst option we could have gone for. Slow or fast, costly or cheap, good or bad, go for BSNL – at least, they have a permanent office, they said! How true!

We somehow managed to find the address and telephone number of Babuji Cable Vision, the network that Chethan worked for – every time we call, they promise to convey the request to Chethan and send him, but our problem has not been solved till date!

We have decided to forfeit the 2.8K for the sake of peace... unless somebody from Sify reads this and feels it their duty to sort this problem out for us!

(In the background we also applied for a BSNL broadband connection, and got it after four weeks of waiting. That is another story; wait till you hear it. But it’s not half as bad as Sify – I would say it is much better.)

And then there was light!

Where?

Most of the people in Padmanabhanagar, a neighbourhood in Bangalore where I live, say their Good Morning and Good Night, in the darkness -- not really because everybody follows the 'early to bed, early to rise' principle, but more so because this is how bad the power situation in Bangalore is.

The newspapers proclaimed four hour power cuts across Bangalore, as the monsoons had failed, and the dams not being full meant not enough power for the city. But in Padmanabhanagar, we have power only for around four hours a day. Trust me... I drew up this power cut schedule from the past few days:

The first power cut of the day is from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., followed by...
8:30 – 9:30 a.m.
10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
12:30 - 2:30 p.m.
3:00 – 3:30 p.m.
4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
7:30 - 8:30 p.m.
9:30 – 10:30 p.m.
Please note that the power cuts are also at the most inconvenient of times!

Why is it that we are suffering such large power cuts, when the rest of Bangalore experiences only 4 hrs or less of power outage? If rumours are true, it is because Padmanabhanagar is Devegowda’s “area” – housing his petrol bunk, hospital as well as homes of his closest kin... and obviously Devegowda is not particularly liked by the current Government.

Well, the monsoons I understand, and the four hours I’m prepared to accept as a price to pay for the damage we’ve caused to nature through modernisation... but from the wrath of the politicians, who will save us! If the rumours are true and we are afflicted by excess power cuts just because we live near Devegowda’s fort, it makes me wonder... we are the ones affected by this, not him... I’m sure he has heavy duty generators running on all his properties! How does it matter to him whether or not the lights burn in our homes?

Thankfully the Sun God does his job reasonably well, or we'd be in the dark for most part of the day too!