UNIVERSAL SERVICE: ADSL and the story of industrial-strength greed

IN THE beginning, the so-called dot-com economy was based upon the notion of a frictionless environment i.e. the internet. The idea was the massive savings created by reducing distances and communicating easily across the planet would be passed onto the consumer and everybody would win.

Then along came the robber barons of the service industry, basking in the glory of “managed complexity” and new acronyms like ICT. They were all good capitalists and saw a good opportunity at cleaning up the competition, siphoning off all those fads and novel savings and patent banking the difference, instead of passing on the friction-freeness to the consumer.

Lets give you an idea of why Telkom is stuck in a virtual freeze, attacked by Hellkom and MyADSL — unable to provide half-a-service while charging exhorbitant rates for its “pipes”, its own network that is already paid for by our tax rands, but which invariably turns into a shopping mall for ICT engineers who think they can outsmart us, blog-rats.

The fact is once a line is installed and paid for, there is no real cost to ADSL except for the small service fee which goes towards upkeep. How much should one be paying for service? What would you charge to keep the network up and running? What would your rates be for watching the 0s and 1s go around and around?

However, since the service-side of the sector was privatized, TELKOM does not provide a service as such. What it provides is an excuse to simply fleece the consumer and siphon off profits to its shareholders who want locked in dividends and locked in clients.

This means that we are paying double for a line that must first be hooked up to a private service providing company in order to fully function. Result? ADSL is enormously expensive. Forget about those glossy ads spinning lies about R240 a pop. What you get is double-dibbing down the line as busker after busker rips off the “locked in consumer”.

For R240 one should get ADSL plus service and whatever benefit one deserves. But in order to keep service privides in business, companies like MWEB running, the South African consumer is ripped off by the only provider of ADSL lines in the country — TELKOM, the monopoly provider.