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A Notification, Story, and Apology for You

It’s a crime not to publish regularly when you have a blog. And it becomes extremely unforgivable when you have this many readers reading your blog’s RSS. So, all, please accept my apologies for no updation in the last two or three days; here is the reason for that. One more thing: This is a notification post, and not connected to the general topic of the blog. I have labeled it as a Blog Notification. Here onward, dear readers, I will have all the notifications for you under this lightweight banner.

I am here in India, and the only countrywide Internet service available to us is from the Indian government-affiliated company, BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigham Limited). Since it is the only company offering Internet service in our area, I have no choice. If there were other companies available, I would gladly have switched.

It was until evening last Friday, April 18, that I was getting Internet connectivity without any fault whatever. Suddenly in the evening, when I tried to connect, I got an error message: “Error 676: Phone line is busy.” Since I am used to such error messages, I did what I do usually—reconnect. And reconnect, and reconnect—no use. I put the connection timeout as 1 second and kept trying for the whole night in vain.

On Saturday, I called up BSNL customer service. First, I called the normal customer service number and found myself waiting and waiting, hearing the "service is busy" message. Since fortunately I had secured two or three other numbers of nearby BSNL offices, I called one of them, the number of the telephone Exchange of my place, Vizhinjam. I got a lady online, with whom I had talked at an earlier date. She, clueless and confused as always, redirected me to another number, of the Junior Telecom Officer, JTO.

I had talked with and had a small acquaintance with this fifty-year-old person, who is ironically the ‘only’ technician available in the telephone and broadband company like BSNL in our whole exchange. When I couldn’t get in touch with this person, I called up the support again and this time got connected. I told them of the trouble, and they tried to do some minor troubleshooting steps like modem reset, reconnect, etc., and nothing happened; I kept receiving the same error message time and again. By this time, I had to redial the support number thrice (each time they gave me a new troubleshooting step, they disconnected the phone after giving me vacant promise that this time it would be all right.) At last, somehow they elicited that it was the trouble with the modem (Phone line is busy), and asked me to contact the local Exchange, Vizhinjam.

Getting round to where I started, I called up the JTO again, and after some tries, I got connected to him. I renewed my acquaintance with him and told him of the trouble. I relayed what the support had found out, “the modem is faulty and needs replacement.” He said that the new consignment of modems would arrive only on Monday, and then he would bring the new modem and connect it for me. I was relaxed for Sunday and tried reconnecting several times.

On Monday, as I got no reply or communication from the JTO, I tried his number. Ring! Ring! But none to answer. After ten tries, I called up the lady I called first. She gave me another number to call. This one was Sub-divisional Engineer of the Exchange. This officer promised me that he would send the JTO to me by afternoon. Afternoon, when it passed 3:30, I called up the same number again and a different employee received the call. When I told him of the trouble, he asked first to call the support, then JTO, and then, when I said I called them all and talked with the sub-divisional engineer as well, he said the officer had been out and didn’t return afternoon. He gave me the officer’s cell number.

When I called the sub-divisional engineer on his cell, he said the JTO was on leave as there had been a local demise and he was attending the rituals. And he promised to bring me relief the next day.

Sunday morning, as I was not getting the broadband, I had switched to dial up. The speed was mostly 10 kbps and sometimes better at 20 (while BSNL always touts it as 56 kbps). I used it to access and check my mail. By Monday morning, dial up was also down. I had written a post for the blog, and taking about half an hour, updated the blog on 19th.

By Tuesday morning, as I got no call from anybody, I tried to get in touch with the JTO. By this time, I had checked my dial up connection several times and found that it was not working at all. When I couldn’t get in touch with JTO, and got beep sound whenever I tried a number, I realized that the telephone itself was out of order. I tried the number of the lady in the Exchange again as it was the only number that went through. At last when she was connected, she confirmed there was trouble with the whole Trivandrum SSA. I had nothing to do.

By afternoon, fortunately for all of us, BSNL somehow got it right. I tried the JTO’s number again and this time, he didn’t recognize me at all. I had to retell him the entire story to make him understand. He then told me that the modem consignment would arrive only in the evening, and he could come to my home the next day by noon. When I insisted that it seemed like a trouble with the Exchange and not with the modem, he had to consent to check the Exchange system. He said he would get people to change the port for my phone and gave me another number to call about it.

When I called it and told them the problem, the man on the other end assured the connection would be fine within an hour. I decided to wait for that long and fired up the computer game to kill time.

By the end of an hour and a quarter, I got a check call from the Exchange telling me the port was being changed. Within five minutes, I got another call, the person told me to check my connection now. When I tried to reconnect the modem and dialed up, the connection was all right. After some time, I got the call from JTO also, checking if the connection was fine.

So then, for getting this little port thing right, I had to call no less than twenty or so calls to this company in a span of three days. And it was all mere port problem. In one of the calls, the person who attended told me a little interesting thing: “There is no technician with us, the only one that we had got a transfer recently. And everything technical is managed by the JTO,” who is an old man.

Here is another petty thing about BSNL customer service. When you call HP’s care, the technician won’t disconnect the call until the customer does so. If he does so, HP will spot-fire him. With BSNL so is not the case. The technician (who is not knowledgeable than JTO himself) gives you some unimportant tips, which you might know yourself and would disconnect the call after a little promise like “It should be all right once you do it, ok?” Maybe BSNL should start counting their days as newer companies are creeping through our lands, filling more regions.

You will shortly have the regular new post in the blog.

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008


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