A Tale of Many Options



I have been a long-time user of VSNL Internet services at home, but in the
last few weeks found that I was working at dawdle speeds. The connection would
also break at periodic intervals and downloading a few e-mails was a task that
required patience levels not to be expected of ordinary human beings. So I
decided to look around–and instead of a finding a solution, I entered a world
of confusion. Before I go further, let me clarify that I am still using VSNL and
the connectivity issues have gone down and though sizzling speeds are not
attained, they are within my patience levels. I must confess that I do not know
what caused the problem and what has solved it. Maybe the Internet gods are
smiling on my geographical location.

“I look forward to crisper, simpler answers to my needs. I will be happy with a lesser number of options–after all, at the end of the day I will use only one of them”

Shyam
Malhotra

Back to the world of confusion. My first port of call was my children. They
told me that MTNL was pretty good and completely free. I tried to explain to
them that it was not free–MTNL got money from the pulses that were ticking
away every three minutes. Only the Internet access was not charged for
separately. And that was the reason for the high telephone bills that I paid
every month. That ended the discussion effectively, but I was tempted to try
MTNL to see if the speeds were really good. It took me some time to get past the
dialer in which the phone number has to be entered to get access and the
password can be key entered as anything. I assume that MTNL ensures through
caller-ID that no one can enter my telephone number in his dialer while I pay
the bills.

Having seen some Reliance ads about a box that could be used for
connectivity, I decided to check it out too. So I visited the Reliance website–using,
of course, the dawdling VSNL connection. I managed to find the site through
omni-Google, but it took a little time to get to the R Connect section, which
gives details of the Internet services offered. I had to first pass through a
maze of many other sections like Dhirubhai’s dream, Vision, Infocomm Business,
Technology, Reliance Group, and so on.

I gradually discovered that I could connect to the Net using either the box,
a WLL phone or a mobile. The tariff plans for each were given separately, so one
had to move through six sections to get the details. Under each section, there
were a host of options which included monthly charges, free call units,
deposits, installation charges, usage charges, the rate per call unit, etc. All
that came to two-and-a-half printed pages per option. Mind you, all I wanted was
the connection speeds that I could hope to get and the cost per hour of
connection and some assurances on the reliability of connections.

The next port of call was Touchtel. Someone had left a Zipnet Touchtel
brochure. It told me about the residential plan, the mini-combo plan and the
combo plan. It also promised a ‘blistering’ bandwidth of 64 kbps, and talked
about the registration and installation charges, security deposits, monthly
telephone pulses, free zipnet usage, additional Zipnet usage, cost of DSL modem,
among other things. The first-time cost was Rs 3,000 for a DSL modem. If I took
a monthly plan of Rs 995, the download permitted was 350 MB. Did that mean that
I had to pay more if I downloaded more than that? And how are downloads
measured?

It still did not tell me what would I spend per hour of Internet access–which
is the simplest way for me to figure out my total spend (I found the answers
later).

Being a persistent, and by now a curious consumer, I went and checked out
Sify on the Internet. Sify also had many schemes. I spent a few hours–over the
next two or three days–researching different options and then the patience ran
out. By that time, VSNL’s connectivity had improved. And I had already missed
the deadlines for this column by two weeks.

The bottom line: I am still with VSNL but hoping to change soon. I also look
forward to crisper, simpler answers to my needs. I will be happy with a lesser
number of options–after all, at the end of the day I will use only one of
them.

Shyam Malhotra
The author is Editor-in-Chief of CyberMedia, the publishers of Dataquest.

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