How much time is acceptable for a telco to fix a bad connection?

Telecommunications companies in the Philippines – by which I mean the companies which sell mobile and home phone lines and internet services – stand to make a lot of money from providing these services to as many people in the country as possible as a long-term goal.

Globe reported a 20% growth in its earnings in 2019, with consolidated net income for 2019 at P22.3 billion from over P18 billion in 2018 and core net income – the earnings from its main business – showed 20% growth from P18.7 billion in 2018 to P22.5 billion in 2019.

PLDT’s 9-month earnings in 2019, meanwhile, were down by 2% despite a 9-month revenue level at P116.3 billion. It did say its revenues were the highest in a long while and was back on a growth path.

All this being said, the financials of Globe and PLDT matter very little to the people on the ground who are partaking of their services. They just want to know their chosen company’s telecoms systems work and, should those not be working, get them back on their phones or online as soon as possible.

This is why people should be campaigning for better accountability and assistance from our existing and future telecommunications companies.

My personal ordeal

I hesitate to call 15 days of internet downtime without repairs a “horror story,” seeing as there are people clamoring to get internet back who have waited far longer, so it may be easier to call it an ordeal.

Back in October, my personal internet connection – a 50 Mbps line I use for streaming videos, gaming, general software updating, and the ability to work from home to save money on transportation and food – went offline. 

For the first 12 days of downtime, I had repeatedly rung up the internet service provider’s (ISP) call center to check on the status of their systems, and to find out what was going on. The support center people said that while the internet was generally working, they had found an issue in one of their centers that needed fixing by repairmen so I stayed patient.

The resolved issue at one of their remote centers did not magically fix my lack of a connection, however.

As is the case these days, by day 12 I had taken a more aggressive route by connecting with my telco on social media to keep me updated…which they basically failed to do, making me more frustrated as the days passed. I’d try to call their support centers, following up and documenting what went wrong on Twitter.

By day 13, attempts to escalate to supervisors failed because they had no supervisors available when I contacted them. They also said the likely supervisor actions that could be done were already being undertaken because I had made escalations during one of the earlier calls.

Simply put, I wanted their support services team to better coordinate with their repairs team so the repairmen could call us and visit the house to diagnose why our home still wasn’t back online.

By day 15, everything was fixed. A repairman went to our home and found out something – likely an animal – had cut or bitten through the internet cable and split it. They replaced the cable and everything was back to normal.

The resolution, unfortunately, was not the result of anything I had done over 14 days. 

Instead, I found out when I returned home from work that my father had phoned a friend the day before who had just the right ISP-related connections, and the ISP’s repairman came because of the call my father had made to his friend.

We should all want better

This casual bit of preferential treatment, while beneficial to me, annoyed me to no end.

The case for technology creating gaps between the haves and the have-nots is already stark. By itself, the internet already creates gaps that need to be bridged between those that have internet versus those that don’t. 

My father having connections that allowed me to bypass the difficulty of getting proper service through official channels was frustrating because that shouldn’t be how things get done. 

Instead, the support systems for tech and telecommunications companies should be adequately staffed to address issues that may occur. We – both people who want good telecommunications services and those serving the people in their telecoms-related jobs – should want better for the good of everyone involved.

To wit, I actively searched but could not find support service and repair person staffing counts for PLDT and Globe (and other ISPs), so here’s a quick list of information I’d like to know from the telcos and ISPs in the country.

Now this isn’t a pissing contest to see how much staff the various companies have on payroll or capacity for service, mind you. This is about accountability.

As a consumer, I personally would like to know why support staff can’t directly connect to repair staff, and why wait times for actual service are long. More information, not excuses and obfuscation, could bridge gaps in understanding.

I understand telecoms companies or ISPs can’t always hire people, but knowing general staffing numbers or company processes – can support staff even call up the repair staff, or is this all automated or algorithmically decided – would better help me to see why getting help for my problems may not be a cut-and-dried issue.

In other words, it’s a bit of service that might diffuse tension in a customer and lessen the stress of the workers involved.  –

Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.