Let’s start with the conclusion first for a change. Why do we put up with this? Why do we accept service that is unacceptable without complaint? How can we get competitive across national boundaries?
OK I know what you’re thinking: he got out of the old year in bad mood and is starting the new one in just the same way. Well no, not really. I rarely use the blog to relay my direct personal experience but today’s is worth commenting upon. But first some background.
As many of you know I live on a boat on the San Francisco Bay. As a citizen-geek of the 21st century WiFi is an essential part of my existence. To have WiFi on my boat would require a call to a phone or cable company and a modem/router. It would take me 30 minutes to drive to and from the computer store to to get the modem/router. It would take me 30 minutes to make a call to the provider. Another 5 minutes to plug in my phone line to the dock-box, then 5 to setup up the modem and 5 more for the router. Isn’t Silicon Valley amazing? I can get my own WiFi hot-spot on my boat almost any time I want in just over an hour.
Of course I don’t need to do this because the hi-tech harbor where I live has WiFi in place already … isn’t Silicon Valley amazing?
Today I tried to get WiFi into a friend’s house here in the UK. After 5 phone calls over the last two days it is now going to take 5 days for the provider to tell me when they can schedule the installation of the service. That installation will be 14 days from receipt of the confirmation letter: which is going via first-class snail; mail so that’s another couple of days. 10 days after that the broadband will be activated. And then I can set up the router and the modem. 5+2+14+10 = 31 days. A whole month!
And the broadband will be rated at 3.5mb/sec for download and, … wait for it …, 440kb/sec for upload. “kb”! “kb”! What 20th century nonsense is “kb”? And there is a monthly limit, on the basic service, of 2mb (yes it does say MONTHLY and yes it does say MB) but, the good news is, the premium service has a monthly limit of 40gb so that doesn’t seem so bad (and yes it does say LIMIT).
As you read this post over your unlimited broadband connection that you installed in a few minutes and that you pay hardly anything for: remember next time you find your self whining (or whinging) about your provider be glad you’re not in the UK.
So: why do British consumers put up with this? Why do British customers accept service that is unacceptable without complaint? How can we get British companies to be competitive across national boundaries?