Thu | Oct 18, 2018

Garth Rattray | FLOW causing business ebb

Published:Monday | August 27, 2018 | 12:04 AM

I am grateful for the enormous advances in information and communications technology. I vividly recall the days when even landlines were a very scarce commodity. Unfortunately, I also vividly remember, back in 1984, when I began practising medicine at my current location. Although I applied as a medical office, that predecessor of FLOW told me that there was no line available. Yet, an employee of theirs moved in just two doors away and immediately had a landline installed. My protestations were ignored, and it took eight long years before I was blessed with a telephone line for the medical office.

Over the years, we have come to depend heavily on our telephone and Internet lines for communication, pleasure, education and, most importantly, economic survival. Between my wife, my personal device, security technology and the business, we have a total of 10 FLOW accounts. The office needs the Internet and at least three PBX lines to function. But, over the years, and especially over the past few months, the office lines have become undependable and provide only intermittent service.

Innumerable calls to FLOW have yielded minuscule results. The frequent downtime leaves us incommunicado for extended periods. Patients call and, receiving no answer, assume that the office is closed. Not only do we lose significant income, people's lives are also put at risk. Obviously, FLOW doesn't care about that.

I have friends nearby who have not had phone service for over a month. These are people who simply must have working telephone lines because every aspect of their businesses depends wholly and solely on customers being able to call them. Without phone lines for incoming and outgoing calls, their businesses are effectively dead. And, in spite of zero income caused by FLOW, they still receive regular bills from FLOW! They must pay day-to-day expenses, salaries, statutory deductions, and all types of taxes and utilities. They cannot send their employees home because the lives of all those families depend on their pay cheques. Obviously, FLOW doesn't care about that, either.

 

Sustained losses

 

These companies have sustained unrecoverable losses along with the loss of future business, and are seriously wondering if they will fold because of FLOW. Their current financial dilemma began about 15 months ago when their telephone service became intermittent and unreliable. What is happening to them now represents the culmination of bad service. Yet, FLOW has never offered any apologies and cannot give the slightest indication as to when their service will return. Some businesses tell me that there are murmurings of fibre-optic lines being put in to replace the regular cables. No one can tell anybody when and nobody can tell anybody how.

Throughout my many years of plaintive communications to telephone service providers, only Digicel has ever taken the time to apologise, explain and sometimes offer redress. FLOW has never sought to engage me or explain the problems that I have been experiencing. Calling or visiting FLOW's main office is futile and wastes precious hours.

We, the businesses on and off Hagley Park Road share common concerns. If the telephone service is so horrendous now, what will become of us when the road project causes relocation of the phone and Internet lines? Businesses must have Internet service to complete transactions and to perform daily banking necessities.

FLOW customers with serious concerns cannot communicate with anyone except the front-line agents, who can only document our complaints, advise us how to solve simple problems or choose plans. As critical stakeholders (supposedly valued customers), we deserve to know precisely how FLOW plans to ensure maximum and sustained connectivity during the roadwork. Without essential telecommunications service, businesses will surely die. Evidently, FLOW does not care.

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