Tue | Aug 22, 2017

FLOW (Following Lime’s old ways)

Published:Monday | January 25, 2016 | 1:00 AM

In 1984, the telephone company made me wait eight years for the one and only line to my medical practice (near Half-Way Tree). Yet, one of their workers got service the day he moved in next door. And, for one entire Sunday, the Cable and Wireless cellular service went down.

There was no timely apology, remuneration or explanation. My migration to Digicel proved futile. Both services are still failing to improve their technology to support their bloated subscriptions. In spite of customer complaints, extremely undependable and intermittent service plague us.

Last year, I needed service in Oracabessa, St Mary. Some homes around us are hooked up, but many are not.

I urgently needed a line with a static IP address for security, communications and entertainment purposes so I installed the Digicel 4G device, but the reception at my place is weak, exceptionally variable and fails often.

 

requisite downpayment

 

So, I visited LIME (Carlton Exchange) and made the requisite downpayment. After many months of silence I returned, but was informed that they were not going to provide the service.

They had all my contact information, yet no one bothered to call, message or email me. There was never any explanation for their poor customer relations or for their decision not to provide service. Getting the refund was a rigmarole. This, although I pay tens of thousands of dollars for 10 FLOW-LIME accounts monthly. I felt slighted, unappreciated and disrespected.

In desperation, I sought advice from a friend and learnt that LIME had acquired DEKAL (a Wi-Fi-based communications system for communities). I contacted DEKAL and recruited many community members who also needed the service badly. I met and drove the DEKAL representative around the area, then installed the pole for the antenna because he said that the service was easily and readily accessible from one or two nearby transmitters.

We were to get service in a week or two. That was February 2015. No call, no message, no email. To this blessed day ... absolutely nothing. DEKAL gave our desperate community false hope and, in spite of my numerous follow-up calls, they have totally ignored us.

Then I learnt that my neighbour directly across the road has FLOW. I went to the Tropical Plaza branch, signed up and paid my deposit expectantly. I got a call from a FLOW employee who said that he was on his way to survey the area, but after a month of silence I revisited Tropical Plaza.

The agent there explained that the service would not be provided. Again, no call, no message, no email and no explanation as to why not. I asked who could explain what's going on, but she asserted that no one can assist me.

We live in the 21st century. Jamaica got telephone service over 123 years ago. My neighbour, directly in front of me, has FLOW. Citizens need the service. The community is growing.

It makes sense for FLOW and/or DEKAL to get in on the 'ground floor' and save inflated installation costs in the future, but we are inexplicably dismissed, repeatedly. We might as well be living on Mars.

The Government is quick to collect enormous fees from these providers and to extract huge and compounded, multiple taxes from us for using them.

Phone bills read, 'Tax: Jamaica - GCT 16.5% AND Jamaica - GCT 25% AND Special Telephone Call Tax'. Yet, we suffer perpetually inefficient service and indignities.

 

INSULT TO INJURY

 

To add insult to injury, the service providers are placing advertisements on our phones without permission, knowledge or any compensation. A lawyer friend found herself calling back overseas clients at great cost to her, until she realised that they were hearing the ads and hanging up in confusion.

The provider refused to remove the ads and, instead, told her to do it herself. She called the Office of Utilities Regulation.

They expressed surprise and agreed that it was wrong before promising to 'investigate it.' As usual, nada, nothing, naught, zero, zip, zilch has come of it.

This article represents exasperation and desperation. There is nowhere else to turn. I am curious to see if it will bear any fruit.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com