How wonderful then that Itisalot provided broadband at the Crumbling Villa in February 2009, a mere nineteen months after the initial application and only six weeks after cancelling a subsequent application. I was of course spared the inconvenience of being advised that my application had been cancelled. Itisalot was happy to accept my third application after I had queued for only 90 minutes at the Al Twar office.
Compared with dial-up that frequently dropped its connection, my new broadband was indeed “surprisingly fast at amazing low prices” as per Itisalot’s adverts back in 2006. My 1Mbps connection uploads data at an astounding 100kbps: at least 20 times the speed of dial-up, and I have occasionally seen downloads at nearly 700kbps.
Daily Telegraph 6th Aug 2009
As for the cost, a mere Dh2988 per year for unlimited downloads is nothing short of stupendous. To note that British Telecom can provide eight times the bandwidth for a third of the price is to make an unfair comparison. Unlike in the UK where urban development is sometimes centuries old, here in the UAE sufficient new telecommunications infrastructure could not possibly have been installed. The absence of meaningful competition has nothing to do with the usurious tariffs.
I am of course protected from the immorality and corruption so prevalent on the internet. I’m protected, for example, from viewing my own degenerate photographs of mosques in Istanbul and tropical fish that I previously uploaded on to Flickr, and from the expensive and unreliable services offered by VoIP providers.
Having established the broadband account, Itisalot explained how I should go about shutting down the old and now unused dial-up, transferring my email ID to the broadband email inbox. Clearly, making such a complicated series of adjustments will inevitably take several weeks. I was inadvertently misinformed by an enthusiastic Itisalot employee that it would take around two hours. It’s perfectly understandable that the occasional error is made, which is why after three weeks the user ID was changed but not the email ID. After nine personal visits, some very kind gentlemen at the Deira office provided their business cards so that I could follow up progress regarding my application, but these people have regrettably been too busy helping other Valued Customers to answer their telephones or emails.
The Customer Care helpline always provides a very polite answer to my queries. I do not know how many people work in Customer Care, but they are unerringly consistent, undertaking to refer my outstanding complaint to the IT department. I was advised to change my password using the e4me.ae website because a personal visit to an Itisalot office incurs a charge for that service. Consistent as ever, Customer Care advised that my complaint had been referred to IT when Itisalot’s system had after over three weeks failed to authorise the change of password.
Commenting to Customer Care that I was temporarily obliged to use the free WiFi in Times Square mall, as provided by D’uh, it was noted that I could actually use an Itisalot WiFi iZone HotSpot, paying for it at a mere Dh10 per hour from my mobile phone account. How reasonable that I should pay Dh249 per month for a non-existent service, plus Dh10 per hour to the same corporation to get any service at all. To say nothing of the FourBucks coffees and time and effort involved with making a special trip to a hotspot. Such a shame then that “There was a problem processing your request. Please try again.” And again. And again. Customer Care helpfully suggested that as the Deira City Centre iZone HotSpot was, erm, broken, perhaps I would like to try Ajman. Absolutely. I have nothing better to do with my Fridays than to cruise the UAE looking for somewhere to connect to the internet.
I am pleased to note that an unexpected telephone call from Itisalot last Tuesday confirmed that the issues have been corrected. It has only taken sixty-one days. I speculate idly whether my recent submission of the complaint details to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has in any way influenced Itisalot’s Customer Care actually to sort out the problem and then to phone me several times and to be extremely helpful.
Apparently it’s possible to obtain a refund for non-existent internet connectivity. Itisalot conveniently has a mechanism in place, involving faxing to 06 746 0444 an explanatory letter, passport, visa, ID card and DNA sample. It has to be by fax of course, “because billing disputes have to go to the concerned department.” What, by carrier pigeon? Pack llama? It only took three tries before Itisalot’s fax was capable of receiving my written submission. Emailing a scanned version is clearly way too high-tech.
Incidentally, I wonder why D’uh offers such a mediocre WiFi service at Times Square? Because it’s free? As a temporary loss leader, if it were my telco, I’d convince my future customers how good I was by providing the most reliable and blisteringly quick WiFi I could possibly manage. What worries me is this might indeed be the case.
Edited 25 August to add:
The iniquities of Itisalot continue apparently without respite. I have just received hard copies of the current internet and telephone bills.
Changing the password through e4me.ae is supposed to be free. Yet according to the Helpless Desk at Customer Care 101 the billing computer went mad. Not only did I get charged for the password change, but Itisalot created three additional dial-up accounts and charged Dh50 to each of them.
It is a known issue. I was told that the computer had done this to everyone on 7th July. Itisalot has, I note, not seen fit to correct the error. It is incumbent on the overcharged subscribers to try to get their money back. A greater cynic than I might infer that Itisalot is hoping that some of the subscribers might simply pay the overcharge.