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Raffique Shah


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TSTT takes my patriotism beyond the boundary

By Raffique Shah
June 24, 2007

My patriotism has finally been pushed beyond the boundary. I, who withstood BWIA for decades, but who remained faithful in spite of the delays, the no-information available, all the little things that counted with paying passengers, but seemed to elude the airline's well-paid staff, stuck with BeeWee to its inglorious end. In banking, whatever pennies I have worked hard for have been stored for usage in a local bank (and its predecessor institutions).

When the latter went belly-up, I lost nothing, such was my pittance. I guess if I were a millionaire, I would have been looking for maximum returns and gone elsewhere. I have weathered the vagaries of T&TEC, whose service has improved considerably, I should add. And I still wear my West Indies cricket badges plastered all over my body, although too often I am driven to the point where I feel like wielding a Clive Lloyd-size bat on those players who could make a clown cry in frustration.

It is TSTT, though, that pushed me over the boundary-cliff it erected for patriots and fools like me. TSTT has always been a pain-in-the-tail; remember Penguin's "Telco Poops"? Remember when the late Dr Eric Williams vowed to "throw the damn phone in the Gulf (of Paria)"? Eventually, at great cost to the public purse, its systems were upgraded and land line home phones became available to most people. Even so, while the world of telecommunications was undergoing exciting changes, like the shift from analog to digital signals, and as wireless services became standard, we remained stuck here trying to get a dial tone on some archaic receiver.

When mobile (or cellular) phones made their debut, changing for all time the way we communicate, TSTT saw an opportunity to gouge out the pockets of those who wanted to stay in tune with technology. Again, consumers will remember when those who went mobile had to pay TSTT for calls made and received! At some point people realised they were being taken for an ultra-expensive ride, and after much grumbling and protests, charges were assigned only to the caller. But they were still higher than anywhere else in the world. It was as if instant orgasms or gourmet dishes went with mobile usage.

The masses, now hooked on the cellphone, could not wait for "de competition" to come. When Digicel finally started operations, TSTT's mobile prices fell like rotten bananas. One wondered why it took a competitor to force TSTT to lower its prices. What that signalled to me was that all along the local company was fleecing its captive customers, making huge profits on the basis of a monopoly. But being patriotic and stupid, I stuck with TSTT. Its rates went down some, but its service remains as primitive as ever. Dropped calls are the norm: one invariably ends up speaking with oneself several times a day. Every day. I still don't know if that happens with "the other network", but I may soon find out.

What finally broke my spirit was the uncaring attitude of the telecommunications company towards its captive land line customers. As can well be imagined I, and a whole lot of other people, depend heavily on the internet for email communications and for research. In the early years of the World Wide Web being introduced here, those who wanted that service were forced to endure connection speeds that were like walking backwards. It took forever to log on. It took seconds to be disconnected, and having to reconnect again...and again. High speed systems came, but in TSTT's case, their reach is limited.

In any event, the dial-up customer depends on his land-line service for connection. Over the past three weeks, my line went from dying to dead, only to rise again, not to heaven, I should add, but to sheer hell. So I made a first call to TSTT's repair service, waited a half-hour for someone to finally answer, and related the problem (which affects many customers in my area). Week after week, call after call, promise after promise-and the service remains sporadic at best.

I know of entire districts where land lines have gone silent (or emit jarring static), and where, in spite of their entreaties, people remain without service for months. Luckily for most, they need only a phone, so their Digicel mobile comes to the rescue. But what about the many who depend on TSTT for internet services? We remain in purgatory, not knowing when we'd catch a few minutes, or when we'd catch arse instead.

Some time ago a friend alerted me to the availability of wireless internet services. I have signed up with one such provider, and I'll see how that works. If it is worse than TSTT's, the people there would see and hear the other, 1970, side of me. I hope like hell it's faster, more reliable, and that they respond quickly to any problems I may encounter. But for now it's bye-bye, TSTT. You have robbed me of a slice of my patriotism I never thought I'd lose. Thanks a lot...for nothing.