So, we are running this protest on Twitter against the recently updated Airtel Broadband plans with rather disturbing fair usage policies.
We are asking folks to hashtag their complaints against the company with #airtelsucks to become part of this movement.
A couple of folks are not amused. I have heard a couple of questions… Let me answer some of them here. Feel free to post your new questions in the comments below.
Airtel is a for-profit company. They can do whatever they want to do with their packages. Who are we to complain against that?
Of course, Airtel is a public company. Its shares are traded in the stock exchange. This makes the situation complicated. The company is answerable to their investors. So, they have to make more profits. And AFUP is one of the ways they can cut on the expenses. But. Airtel is also one of the leading ISPs in India. It is also a company which has invested heavily in its broadband infrastructure. From what I have heard they have surplus bandwidth available in the country which is currently not being utilized… So, it’s not like they are running short of bandwidth forcing them to implement these stupid limits on their paying customers.
TRAI states that for a package to be sold as broadband, it has to provide 256kbps as the minimum speed all the time. This definition of broadband is pretty old if we look at the growth in this market. It is time to update the specifications and TRAI is said to be working on it. Airtel’s new packages are designed to take advantage of this specific policy. Their new plans are sold with speeds ranging from 512kbps – 4mbps. These are the speeds that are highlighted in all the advertising materials. The brochures on their site do clearly mention the FUP limits. But the same is not highlighted in their print ads. Most new customers deal with Airtel agents who are responsible for telling the exact details of the packages to them. Do you really think that these agents would make the details crystal clear to a potential customer who might not remain interested enough after hearing about the FUP limits that are applicable after 8-15-20-40-50GB of data transfer?
Here is a screenshot of an online ad:
As you can see these ads are almost deceptive in nature. They do not highlight that the speeds are for a limited duration only. At 4mbps, you can consume 8/15/20/40/50GB data in a couple of hours.
Our protest is in fact not even against their advertising. Our protest is against the new developments which are taking us back to the early 2000s. 256kbps was made the bare minimum standard a couple of years ago. Internet speeds is supposed to increase with time. Broadband rates are supposed to go down with time. Airtel is taking the opposite route. Old customers are paying 1699 for a connection that provides 1mbps for the first 100GB of data transfer. It falls down to 512kbps after that. New customers? They are paying around the same for a 4mbps connection. Top speed is applicable up to 50GB of data transfer. The speed falls down to 256kbps. You end up 6% of the original speed! This is pretty much getting out of hand!
TRAI is of course pretty helpless as there are no regulations that would block these kind of practices being adopted by the internet service providers in the country. There is nothing illegal going on here. This is something that has to be highlighted to ensure that potential Airtel customers know what they are getting when they are going for a new Airtel connection. This is one of the attempts of our protest.
Indian mainstream media is practically useless in this scenario. We have not seen any major attempt by the news media in India to highlight the mess broadband segment is in India. They are rather happy to take money from Airtel to run their Impatient One advertising campaign. We are the ones who are affected by it and it becomes our responsibility to highlight the issue and bring it to everyone’s attention.
Broadband has to become cheaper. Internet speeds have to go higher. This is how it is supposed to work. We are not even talking about network neutrality right now because it is not even an issue when we are all going to be stuck with 256kbps connection which is rather useless to access any of the recent innovations on the web. YouTube? Video Calling? Cloud Computing? 256kbps is not going to work at all.
If we are so unhappy with Airtel, why don’t we leave it and move on?
Ignoring the problem is not a solution. Airtel is THE ONLY internet service provider here that understands customer support. They have a dedicated team on Twitter (@airtel_presence) that caters to user complaints posted on the micro blogging network. They get it most of the times. But FUP is something where they have messed up badly. And as long time customers, we are trying to remind them that what they are doing is simply not right and acceptable.
I have personally been a customer of Airtel for 5-6 years. I LEFT Sify Broadband for Airtel Broadband. That actually required me to move from Chandigarh to Gurgaon because Airtel was not available in my locality at that point of time.
I have done it once. I am not going to do it again. I still have hope that someone higher up at Airtel would realize what we are trying to convey. And something can be done about it.
So… What exactly are we looking for?
Airtel can keep their existing plans. We do not care about them. What we need from the company is more options. More plans. That cater to web users like us. Who are willing to pay reasonable amount of money for the services that meets our requirements.
We need purely unlimited broadband packages of speeds 1mbps or more. We need these plans without any trace of FUP attached to them. And we need them at reasonable prices. We are not asking for the company to make a loss on us. We are just asking them to be reasonable. That’s it.
If we do not protest now. Things could go worse. They have already gone rather bad. From 100GB to 8GB! We cannot just ignore this new development. This is about the future of broadband in India. This is about the so called IT REVOLUTION in this country. We simply cannot ignore our ISPs manipulating the market in this manner. This is simply not acceptable.