It’s no secret that I’ve spent many years struggling with my internet connection. I first signed up with Reliance when they went live in 2008; in fact, I was one of the first people at their store. I was such an early bird, in fact, that they didn’t have the devices in yet to sell me one. But their enthusiastic salesperson was a huge believer in the product he was just about to unload on tens of thousands of unsuspecting souls – sadly, I was – and still am – a part of that list.
Before I signed up with Reliance I was with Airtel, and to be perfectly honest, I hated it. I live on the outskirts of a large city, but where I live still does fall under Chennai, and has a Chennai postcode. I wanted to sign up with Airtel’s cable broadband service, but they told me that they still hadn’t ‘moved’ to laying cable in the outskirts of the city. They told me they would have it sorted in ‘less than a year’, but the last time I inquired (some months ago) they still haven’t got around to laying cables ‘in the outskirts’. So, that’s four years later, after being told that they would only be one year. What can you do? This is India.
It’s that very same attitude that has my country where it is today. Oh sure, we’ve come a long way since the 1980s when we were still receiving international aid, and we’ve come an even longer way since 1947, when we achieved independence and officially became the world’s largest democracy. But I have to digress a moment here. India has come a long way _despite_ most Indians, and their intolerable ‘chalta hai’ attitude (chalta hai loosely translates to ‘Oh, it’ll be alright!’); one can only imagine then where this country would be if everyone were completely committed to its betterment. It truly is mind-boggling that India has achieved so much in so short a time – as nations go, we’re still rather young, after all – and we’re not even trying!
So, back to Reliance, alas. The salesman asked me for very precise location details, and I helpfully jabbed at a map of Chennai’s East Coast Road to show him exactly where I was. He clapped his hands happily. Oh, it was fantastic, he said, that I lived where I did, for Reliance Netconnect’s extensive plan would apparently cover the area I lived in. I have to confess I felt complete relief at his words. At last! An internet plan to carry me into the future. I went back to the shop two days later and proudly carried off the dongle; it looked a little odd and fat – rather old-fashioned as dongles go – and had an antenna. Alrighty, then. Nevertheless, I was happy. I was signed up to the internet version of the space-age (or so the advertisements had me believe).
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I installed it onto my laptop and waited confidently for the signal to show up. Eventually there was one bar and then, almost reluctantly, there were two. Where were the seven bar-strength signals that were so proudly displayed in the advertisements? To say that I was disappointed would be the understatement of the century. I was _devastated_. This seemed to be worse than my old Airtel connection. Still, perhaps it would improve as I went on.
It got worse.
I discovered various things about Reliance Netconnect as I used their connection, that I will now describe in point form, and with as much detail as I can.
1) Reliance Netconnect are liars.
Alright. I know how this works; I used to work in advertising. I’m not quite that naïve. But this went beyond being an advertisement gimmick and into the realms of ‘utter lying bastards’. I couldn’t believe their cheek.
2) Reliance Netconnect are sadists.
Reliance Netconnect has no interest in giving you peace of mind. What they want is to make you feel complete and utter frustration as you wait for pages to load – often for hours – and nothing happens. Even the most basic page – free of images – the loading screen of your e-mail for instance – doesn’t load. You can scream, cry, tear your hair out in frustration, and even threaten to murder someone at their head office (for the record, I never have, but I have screamed, cried, and torn my hair out in frustration), but nothing works.
Phone calls generated no interest in fixing my problem. I took it out and put it back in, restarted my computer, uninstalled and reinstalled it, changed my username and password, changed it to ‘hybrid’ (a sort of roaming mode where it picks up the best signal that it possibly can), changed it to 1x (the worst signal), to HSD (the best signal), and back to hybrid modes again, and even carried it around my house trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where my signal would work. I eventually found one on the landing near my bedroom where I worked cramped and swearing while being squeezed into a tiny space (the table that I could fit there wasn’t meant to be used to keep a laptop on) with no ventilation or fan; eventually I invested in a tabletop electric fan that I could move around. After a few months, however, it got too hot (during the summer) to work on that landing; besides, my shoulders and my back were suffering the side-effects of the bad posture and I had to give it up. However, I have to add, that the ‘sweet spot’ just meant that I had one more signal bar, and it would frequently drop me and reconnect; sometimes days went by when I had no connection at all.
3) Reliance Netconnect clearly just doesn’t care about you, their paying customer.
I threatened often (to the ‘service’ reps who came to my house to try and ‘fix’ my problem and to people I talked to on the ‘phone) to dump Reliance, but nobody even bothered to soothe me or tell me they cared about my problems. The service reps are clearly not paid enough to deal with irate customers; they’re clearly not paid enough to fix my issue, in fact. All the service reps who have ever come out here have all said ‘Oh, the signal strength is no good in this area’, as if this solves my problem. I would explain to them, with varying degrees of irritation, that the man who sold me the connection did so after reassuring me that the area I lived in had coverage, and the service rep would shrug. I would often ask what I was supposed to do; the guy said that short of moving, there was nothing I could do. Then, one bright spark said that if I wanted to spend an extra Rs. 10,000, they would fix some sort of thing to my house which would improve my connection. So, I asked, _you_ made the mistake, _you_ lied, _your service_ is crap, _your connection_ is crap, and _you_ want _ME_ to invest in you some more? The bright spark responded with a smile, that yes, it was my only option. I prevented myself, with great difficulty, from flipping him the bird; my mum just didn’t raise me that way.
Once I was asked to take my dongle into the head office, which I did; the bright sparks there proceeded to fit the device into their own PCs and show me how clear the signal was. There was nothing wrong, they said, with the dongle. It honestly makes me boggle that they didn’t realise that their head office is in the centre of the city, and not on the outskirts. I invited the man to my house to look at the performance of said dongle in my own premises, but he declined. He would, he said, send me a service rep. And there we are again, back to square one.
4) Reliance Netconnect doesn’t listen.
No matter how many times I talked to people in Reliance – the people at their head office, the people in their showroom, the people on the other end of the service line, the service reps who came to my house and fiddled around with my laptop and my dongle, and everyone with a Reliance badge on them – it became clear to me that nobody cared about my problem. I’m just one number, paying her bill every month, keeping them in business, saying nothing, taking their bullshit for service, and accepting a sub-standard service as something that I have no choice but to accept. I’ve threatened, begged, entreated, asked nicely, sworn at, and cursed at them on Twitter but – nobody listens. Nobody cares. What can I do? I’m just _one_ person.
Well, I am. I am just one person. I am one person, living on the outskirts of a large and busy city; a city which, if it were located in any other prosperous country, would have internet on the outskirts. But what can I do, right? This is India.
Only, it won’t be alright. I’m sick and tired of being backed into a corner; I’m sick and tired of paying for a service which never delivers. I’m sick and tired of trying to log into my e-mail every morning, only to have the connection quit on me, or, as it has been for the past two days, not exist entirely. I have _ZERO_ signal. Nothing. Not a blip! As you can see in the picture, it’s just gone. I have zip. I have zilch. I have NADA.
I am tired of being a number to you, Reliance Netconnect. I am tired of talking to you, and not having you listen to me. I have been faithful to you for four years; I’ve taken care of the dongle you gave me; it’s in excellent condition. I’ve paid my bills. I’ve asked nicely. But I’ve had enough. As of today, I’m scouting for a new internet connection that will serve my needs. And you and I, Unreliable Shitconnect (please start calling yourself what you really are); you and I are finished.