Sunday, January 07, 2007

telecomms and frustrations

I have been of the opinion for some time that Peninsular Gulf State Telecomms (GTel for short, as mentioned in previous posts) are the worst telephone and internet service providers in the entire world. They are a state protected monopoly until 2014. I am still of this opinion but the Magic Kingdom Telecommunications company (MTC) is running a close second. They re also a state protected monopoly. The Gnomads are keen users of the internet and as such have been trying to get a broadband connection at home for more than four months now.

The compound manager is not interested in helping us do this, he won't sign up to any deal unless he can sign four residents up at once. Not so difficult you might think as there are several of us here who want a DSL link. But no, there aren't four households in the same block that want a new DSL line. Another alternative is to sign up for a massive satellite TV package and get satellite internet as an add-on. This is a lot of money for a whole load of channels that the Gnomads would never watch. This also involves the compound manager and so would take months too. Having despaired of getting anything done via the compound we have tried to get our employer to organise it for us. We cant just go and get a link installed ourselves, we have to have a letter of no objection from either our employer or our compound manager.

At the end of November we were informed that we would soon be getting a DSL line installed with full internet access, paid for by my employer and salary deducted at payroll. Easy Peasy!

No, as it turns out. Having made this arrangement we waited. And waited. then an email popped up, the lines are being made available, please call to get the line installed. Woohoo! Broadband!

No, we have to call to get our existing phone line changed over to a line which will support ADSL. The technician comes round swaps a couple of wires over and bob's your uncle, ADSL

No, having got the line switched over we than have to call MTC to get the ADSL line activated. Now anyone with any brains whatsoever would work out that if one changed ones phoneline to allow ADSL connection then one would want ADSL, but this is far too great a leap of logic for MTC. So Gnomad calls MTC. "Ah yes, you want ADSL, a technician will call you in a few days" Two weeks later and still no call. Normally I would have only waied a week but there's a holiday, Eid Al Adha, in the timeframe. In the meantime The Gnomads are using MTCs dial up facility at only five times the expense of the broadband connection.

Three days (Friday) ago we find that we cannot connect on the dial up, the line is busy. All day. Maybe there's a fault on line. No, the phoneline appears to be working OK (I called the line from my mobile and it rang). Perhaps it is a fault with the server that will be fixed tomorrow. Patience mes Braves, no point fretting about it today, Friday is the holy day, no-one will be working. Saturday comes and the line is still busy. So I call MTC.

"You're line is suspended"
"You are over your credit limit"
"What credit limit?"
"All new lines have a credit limit of (pitifully small amount of money) shekels and this cant be changed until you have paid the bill.
"I don't pay the bill, my company pays the bill, when was the bill sent out?"
"The bill was prepared yesterday"
"so it hasn't been sent yet?, when can I expect my company to have paid this?"
"Maybe 10 days Insh'Allah"
"can you reconnect me until then?"
"We can reconnect for 24 hours only, then disconnect again"

And so it went on. Apparently the system goes like this, you have a credit limit that no-one tells you about and, if when they make up your bill, you are over that limit they shut off the service. No contact, no warning, and no indication except any number you call rings as busy. I have never before encountered a utility that will cut you off before you have even had a chance to pay.

So today I went off to MTC to pay a bill which I don't actually have. Yet again I got prayer time wrong and so arrived just as they were closing to go to pray. I waited for nearly three quarters of an hour and then was allowed in. It doesn't appear that many people actually go to pray, though, I only actually saw 3 people go into the mosque. There were far more people waiting outside to go into the office by the time prayers ended. I did not see anyone at all from the office go to the mosque either. That is not to suggest that they didn't pray, merely that they didn't go to the mosque to do so. This being the case why is it necessary to close the office half an hour before and throughout prayer time? I am sure that Inconveniencing the Infidel cannot really be the motive (although sometimes it feels very much like it)and its much more likely that the businesses must close to ensure that the faithful have time to get to the mosque, wash and pray without this right being taken away from them by greedy, grasping employers (who, here, must also be Muslims), but who can say?

I queued for half an hour at reception and explained my problem. "Go to Desk 4 they will print your bill" so I fall in line and wait at desk 4. "I print your bill, you collect it from reception" so I queue again at reception. After only about 10 minutes "Here is your bill, you pay at desk 7" so I fall in line and wait at desk 7, after maybe only 15 minutes I get to the head of the queue and hand over the bill and the debit card. The card machine doesn't work.

"can I pay cash?"
"No only card, we will fix, the line is down"

So after about ten minutes and three men fiddling around with the machine they establish the necessary phone link to make the card machine work (This is the telecomms office, remember?) and my payment is processed.

"will the line work now?"
"You go to desk 7"

So back I go to desk 7, wait in line again for the person there to make three keystrokes and the phone line will be active again in "an hour, maybe half an hour, Insh'Allah"

To be fair, the phoneline was back in working order by the time we got home

It is astonishing that a simple thing like paying a phone bill can take over three hours, and involve calling in at three desks, two of them twice. That's all part of the Magic of the Kingdom.

In the course of the conversations with MTC it did turn out that the line was now ADSL capable and had been for several days, just that no-one had bothered to tell me that either. I will go into work tomorrow and find out exactly how to get the broadband service, now we finally have a phoneline that is capable of supporting it.

Even as I type the doorbell rang and it was one of the compound workers bringing me the phone bill. MTC is not, apparently, sending these to my employer after all. I do wonder exactly what, if anything, has actually been arranged.

Do we have an internet service?
Is it ADSL?
Will it be broadband soon?



Since writing we have been cut off again. Now bear in mind that I went into MTC's office, got the very latest up-to-date bill, paid the entire balance using my atm card (they will not accept cash, only card payments). The payment was authorised as soon as their phone line was working so it’s a guaranteed payment, the guy in their own office re-activated the line and, despite this, someone else in MTC has chosen to cut us off again! I have just got off the telephone (the other line, the one the compound provides) having spoken to MTC very harshly. They very grudgingly agreed to "Give me one more chance" - ARrogAnt Ba$tards! - and re-connect the line again, hence my being able to make my tirade here. I find it astonishing that you have to get angry with people just to get anything done here.

According to MTC the payment has not yet appeared on their computer system so the line should be cut off. A reconnection of the sort given to us in the office is supposed to last 24 hours to allow the payment time to clear, it actually lasted less than six. I wonder how long this re-connection will last. I suspect only until the next shift change when some new operative logs on, notices the apparent lack of payment and, without checking any further, cuts us off again. Gtel's status as World's Worst Telecomm Provider is beginning to look rather shaky!

Addendum Too

9 minutes – that’s how long our “24 hour” reconnection lasted. We are cut off again. Continued attempts to reconnect result in, roughly, one successful attempt in 7 which then drops out after about 40 seconds. I am typing this in Word and will cut and paste it onto the blog when MTC finally condescends to provide us with the service for which I have paid.

(posting from work)