Is this for real? Damn PTCL. This is going to be hard for dial-up users like me. They are not even introducing DSL in our city and I am stuck with paying a 1000 to a dial-up ISP and now a new call charged every 15 minutes, great!
According to a news report, the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) after its privatisation is losing revenue and connections due to its declining services and increasing tariffs. The recent revenue generating tactics of the PTCL unfortunately, are detrimental to subscribers’ interests and will most likely deepen the digital divide in the country because it has made internet surfing costlier by at least three times. The worst affected of all, are the dialup connection users and in particular the students.
The PTCL has silently started charging internet users a new local call after every 15 minutes of net surfing. All the consumers who use any PTCL line (for a dialup connection) but a non-PTCL Internet Service Provider (ISP) are badly hit by this hidden tariff, as they unknowingly add up several digits to their bills as they are being charged at the rate of four local calls per internet hour. This means that an internet user has to pay about Rs 10 per hour just to remain connected, in addition to the tariff paid for the internet service. Previously, however the dialup connection required only one local call to connect. After connecting, one could continue the online session for as long as one needed, without being charged a new call. This made the internet easily accessible and affordable for the students and many ISPs had introduced special packages for the students providing internet access @ Rs. 2 per hour. However, now thanks to the new PTCL policy, internet is no more affordable for majority of the students.
Now due to a fresh local call being charged after every 15 minutes, one hour of net surfing would cost between Rs 12 to 20, depending on the ISP tariffs. “It is going to discourage the use of internet amongst the students,” says Rana Ghulam Mohi-udin, a student of UMT, Lahore. “The students should not be deprived of an easy access to databases, because of such high tariffs,” he says.
The only alternative now to other costlier ISPs is PTCL’s own phone & net service. The company provides the internet service at the rate of Rs 6 per hour plus a local call to connect. However, this service comes with its own set of problems like slow speed, poorer quality, no technical support, and is still higher priced than the other ISPs.
Unfortunately, PTCL being a telecom giant has manipulated a price structure that compels the subscribers to switch over to its internet service. By penalising the subscribers for using non-PTCL ISPs, PTCL is actively depriving them of choice. Moreover, the PTCL has unilaterally fixed the internet tariff which is at least three times higher than was previously available in the open market.
The PTCL offers a so-called Value Plus package for the net users. According to the package, 20 hours are offered for “free” at Rs 75 per month. A cursory look at the package reveals that the net cost of internet usage has been in fact increased from what has been available to the net-users through private ISPs and one “free” internet hour costs Rs 3.75. Thus, the package actually offers nothing to the subscribers. It’s just an advertising gimmick to sugarcoat the reality of raised tariffs.
The most unfair thing is that PTCL has not informed the subscribers about the hidden tariffs. So much so that most of the ISPs and also reporters from the electronic and print media, covering PTCL were found unaware and uninformed. It is highly unethical to charge people without informing them.
Moreover, the organisation has already earned a bad image for its one-sided imposition of the so- called ‘Pakistan Package’. Losing good will of the people means losing the business, it’s due to these reasons that the PTCL is losing revenue and connections but the lesson is lost on the management of the PTCL. Instead of reclaiming the lost ground and winning back the public good will, the PTCL is trying to overcome the deficit through the deceptive tariffs. “Such tactics may work in the short term but no company can earn profit after losing its soft image,” says Zia-ur-Rehman a Karachi based marketing manager.
In the best interest of the people at large and the PTCL itself, the management should rethink its unfriendly policies. It should immediately reverse the indirect tariff on dialup connections; as it is hitting hard majority of internet users as just three hours a day net surfing would cost around Rs.1000 per month. Hussain Ahmed a lecturer in English complains: “the recurrent disconnections terminates online session abruptly; it disallows you even to send and receive the mail.” According to Sibghatullah a Virtual University student, "the PTCL new tariff has made downloading the courses and uploading the assignments difficult and costly for us."
The majority of dialup connection users in Pakistan are the students. They can neither afford the DSL connections nor this high cost. The raised hidden tariff by the PTCL would restrict or deny the poor students’ access to the information resources. Thus it would deepen the digital divide in Pakistan and the unprivileged of the country would be left behind. The PTCL should facilitate the access to cyber space instead.