Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bent over backwards

This is my column today, May 13, 2014. 


One of the Internet memes that struck me recently, which I reposted in my social networking accounts, and consequently reposted by many of my friends, was that joke about how Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs should look like if it were revisited today.  The base of the triangle which represented the hierarchy had been revised to include a need seemingly more basic than biological needs – WIFI or wireless internet connection.  The meme was supposed to be a joke, but it felt true particularly since many people now seem to live primarily in social networking sites.  I know quite a number of people whose survival seems to be dependent on their being able to access the Internet; they begin displaying withdrawal symptoms if they are unable to do so even for just a single day.
It is actually understandable.  Practically everything we need to know can be sourced through the Internet – from complex questions such as how to split the atom, to pressing concerns such as where to buy a reasonably-priced hand-held portable x-mount that would enable people to take selfies using their cellular phones, and even more mundane trivia such as the last time Nora Aunor won an acting award.  We can book flights and hotels, check traffic congestion, and even stalk people we admire, thanks to the Internet.  And because of social networking sites, we can be updated with what everyone else is busy with (including what they had for merienda) as well as who they are annoyed with at any given time. 
That is, if one has a decent Internet connection, which in this country is hard to come by. 
But if it is any consolation, at least we now know that the snail-paced Internet connection at our homes and offices is something that everyone in this country suffers from.   Three separate reports released by independent bodies were unanimous in their observation: We have in this country one of the lowest Internet speed in the world, in fact the lowest in ASEAN.  To make matters worse, we also have the most expensive Internet connection.  In short, we’ve been bent over backwards for the longest time by our telecommunications companies who have been charging people an arm and a leg for services that stinks.  Ouch.
Of course not many people have been aware that our telcos have been having their way with us for the longest time.  Most of us have been conditioned to think that misery is our birthright; thus, we are even supposed to be grateful to big business for the snail-paced connections that most of us have.  Why, just the other day, I chanced upon a niece huddled over her laptop at 2 o’clock in the morning.  She was desperately trying to upload pictures to her Facebook account because she said it was only during that hour when Internet connectivity was faster.  And yet she was subscribed to a plan that was marketed as fast and reliable.  When I told her to write a complaint she balked – the last time she did, she got faster speed but would get disconnected every few minutes.  She thought slow but available was much better than fast but unreliable.  Oh, the compromises we are made to live with.  And yet, our telcos pester us with reminders every single time our accounts are due – they text and call even at the most unholy hour, urging us to pay up or else.
Of course I have had my share of similar aggravations.  Truth to tell, we’ve changed our Internet service provided at home three times already in the last five years and we still continue to experience problems.  We’ve changed from canopy, to wi-max, to cable – and so far, we remain unhappy.  We now have three pocket wi-fi subscribed to three different providers in addition to having a wi-max connection at home.  We basically shift from one provider to another depending on which one is working faster or better at any given time.  We’ve also made arrangement with our neighbors to share Internet connections when necessary.  Yes, we are spending a lot for Internet connectivity at home.  It’s an arrangement that stinks to high heavens and smacks of unfairness, but it’s much better to just part with good money than have hypertension attacks everyday due to aggravation.
What is government doing about this? Where are the bleeding hearts in the senate and in congress who, in the last campaign, promised to take up the cudgels for consumers? I know that Senator Bam Aquino issued a press statement calling for an inquiry into the matter.  As can be expected, nothing came out of it.  The senator hardly has any gravitas to be noticed. 
Lest we forget, our telcos are the most successful companies in the country and are part of the business empires of the most politically-connected businessmen in the country.  I doubt if anyone really wants to cross swords with them.

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