I recently moved house and needless to say, relocating my broadband connection turned into a major hassle. For starters, it took Telkom some 22 days to install the connection. Then I realised, my communication bill was seriously biting into my limited income. Surely I could cut down on some of my telephony services, for instance, the voice services bundled along with the broadband data?
Telkom, South Africa’s sole supplier of broadband cable to the domestic household are adamant that if you want broadband, you also have to pay for voice. The saga of doubling up of costs and the resulting demand for “naked adsl” is testimony to the way the company does business, treating consumers as if they are nothing more than cash cows to be milked for all they are worth.
Some years ago, I started a Facebook group called ZA-FREE. One of the key demands of ZA-FREE was (and still is) along with the Internet as a Human Right, is for greater broadband options, especially the right not to be forced to pay for bundled voice services on a simple cable connection. There is no technical or physical reason why this can’t happen, and yet Telkom employees act as if the voice bundle is an integral part of the technology which supplies consumers with a broadband cable circuit. Surely a problem related to superstition stemming from the manner in which telephones as opposed to ‘cables’ are installed into homes?
A consumer group called Free the Web soon followed ZA-FREE with similar demands, hence the term “naked adsl” and the demand for”naked internet”. To date, Telkom refuse to accede to any of our demands for greater rights, freedoms and choices when it comes to broadband.
This got me thinking. Why is Telkom still opposed to Broadband Cable Freedom, and why has consumer pressure failed to bring the Telco round to a modern, 21st century view of cable, as opposed to telephone and wireless, services?
Could it be Telkom (and the government) fear the potential that broadband cable has for liberating consumers from the narrow-band straightjacket which is capped Internet? Is it a throwback to the apartheid baaskap mentality in which certain sectors of the population are considered of no value except as labourers? In this way of thinking, the only people who deserve broadband are those who can afford to pay for voice services, in other words, the middle class.