Discussions around closing the digital (gender, PLWD, rural-urban) divide
have been my daily uptake in the recent past, looking at how to bring
everyone to the digital space. While we push to get the unconnected to be
connected, a good percentage of those that are already connected are
suffering from unreliable internet services offered by some ISPs in the
The argument around this issue is that home/office internet subscriptions
are time-based. The subscriber pays for access to the internet for a month,
for example. A certain amount of money is prescribed, depending on the
bandwidth one subscribes for. Along the way, the customer is faced with
countless downtimes, which go uncompensated. In essence, the customer paid
for service not delivered. I have had my fair share of this menace, and
when I asked my ISP, the response was that if the service remains
unavailable for more than 24 hours, then I should file a case with them for
a refund. The point is, I may not get a complete cycle of 24 hrs downtime,
but I may have 10 hrs today, 16 hours next week, and even 20 hours another
week. Cumulatively, I could lose almost 3 days in a month, but I cannot get
compensated since no one instance lasted for 24 hrs. Even with this
provision from the ISP, the customer is highly disadvantaged, and mostly
uninformed that there is such a provision. With the recent increase in
remote working, these downtimes would cost one so much, especially those
working from home, and upon such occurrences, they are required to procure
the mobile data bundles that are usually expensive compared to fixed
wireless services (that expense is on top of the monthly subscription). Are
there regulatory measures in place to ensure that the customer gets exactly
what they have paid for, or is it a case of a free market where the
customer is at will to dump one ISP for another in such instances? If yes,
do we then need the regulator to also enlighten the consumer of the
existence of such regulations that protect them, and how they can best
utilize them to ensure that they get value for their money? Most customers
have no idea that there is anything they can do about it, other than
picking a different ISP as a punishment for the non-performing one. While
competition could be seen as a way to ensure ISPs provide quality and
reliable services, some areas have only one ISP, operating as a monopoly,
and the issue of competition doe not apply. As we champion digital
inclusion, we must ensure that we have meaningful connectivity, which
means, good quality and reliability of the services offered.

Kisundu Nicholas N,
Digital Inclusion| ICT Policy,

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