Open letter to iBurst asking for a standard monthly subscription fee

I object to your wirelesss pricing structure as published here.

Specifically I object to your varying monthly subscription fee which starts at R35 pm for a wireless Start 80MB package and increases to R369 per month for a Wireless 15 15GB package.

If you compare this with ADSL pricing, Telkom charges a varying line fee based solely on one criteria: speed of connection. However, in your case, connection to your network is at the same speed regardless of data package chosen.

It therefore makes logical sense to charge the same monthly subscription fee irrespective of which data package is chosen.

I would appreciate you amending your wireless pricing structure at your earliest convenience to reflect the same monthly subscription fee across all your data package options, whatever you deem it to be.

A 15G account holder, such as myself, should not pay a higher subscription fee because I’m already paying more for the higher volume of data I transmit across your network. I should not be penalised twice.

Suspended three times by iBurst

Since January 2008, I have been a subscriber of iBurst. The package I am on is called Xtreme and allows for 5GB of broadband traffic, when that limit has been reached, the speed is throttled to 64Kbps. The monthly charge for this package (including a desktop USB modem) on a 24 month contract is R639. I also subscribe to their iCall VoIP service which is R50 per month, for a total bill of R689 per month. My contract with iBurst expires on February 04 2010.

On Friday, October 24 2008 17h00 until Monday, October 27 2008 14h05, iBurst first suspended my account without contacting me first. When contacted on Friday evening, the support people at iBurst would not reinstate my account. I was told that I was in arrears and that the problem could only be attended to on Monday at the earliest. On Monday, it transpired after asking iBurst accounts department why the account was suspended, that in fact they had screwed up. We had to fax bank statements to them to prove that the subscription had been paid. Eventually they worked out that the error was wholly on their side and my account was reinstated.

Up until this day, I have never received an apology from iBurst for this suspension of my service over an entire weekend. Emails to them asking for compensation have been ignored. It is clear that iBurst doesn’t care about me, nor do they care about any of their subscribers. They do not care how much they inconvenience their customers. The lesson here is that YOU should not do business with iBurst.

On Friday July 17 until Monday July 20 2009 iBurst again suspended my account for being in arrears. The pattern repeated itself. iBurst failed to contact me to rectify the problem before it summarily suspended me. Support staff over the weekend at iBurst were wholly unable or unwilling to attend to my problem and restore my Internet access. Only on Monday once we were able to speak to the “right person” could the problem be remedied. Again my account was not in arrears. iBurst had erred again and suspended my account again without cause.

This time I didn’t bother emailing them to ask for compensation. I knew that they would ignore me again.

This past week, on Wednesday November 11 2009 after 17h00, iBurst suspended my account for the third time without contacting me first. Apparently my account was in arrears again. This time it turned out that their billing system had failed to debit September’s subscription, due wholly to an error on their part. They had put through the debit order for October and November (and received payment). It took them until November 11 to discover that September’s debit had not occurred and instead of contacting me to ask me to provide funds and authorise them to debit my account, they simply suspended my account. Because iBurst does not care if they inconvenience their customers. Contacting iBurst’s support staff after hours proved fruitless – none of them would reinstate my account.

The pattern should be clear to you by now: iBurst suspends accounts after hours, without having staff on hand who can deal with suspension queries, because iBurst doesn’t care how much they inconvenience their paying customers.

On Thursday, I was told that my account would only be reinstated once September’s subscription had been paid. Never mind that they caused this problem in the first place – that did not enter into the equation. Funds were duly provided, the debit went off, and my account was reinstated, for about an hour, then iBurst’s network went down. Support staff told me that my account was active, but their network was down. So after paying the subscription, iBurst couldn’t even deliver me service. The next day,  Friday November 13 2009, I found my service active, but again for only about an hour,  and then it went down again.

I was then told that my service was offline because I had exhausted my bandwidth for the month! While this was true (I have indeed used up my 5GB quota), my Xtreme account, which is the second highest account, is still entitled to remain connected at the throttled rate of 64Kbps.

If you are on a Giga package or higher, your service will be slowed down (throttled) to a maximum of 64 kbps once your cap is reached. – iBurst’s web site

I was told that an iBurst representative would call me back, but that never happened. Eventually, my account was reactivated without anyone calling me to apologise or notify me.

All these calls to iBurst’s support come at a price – iBurst does not have a toll free customer support line. You have to call 087 720 7200 and wait in a queue, while your telephone air time is eaten away. All because they screwed up.

iBurst is just as bad as Telkom, if not worse. At least with Telkom, you can call their support for free.

As I said above, my contract with iBurst expires on February 04 2010. At that time, I intend taking my business to Neotel. I hope that they turn out to be winners.

UPDATE:

Nov 14 2009 19h30: After writing this blog post, my iBurst Internet connection failed again in the early hours of Saturday morning. When I called iBurst support I was again informed that I had no access because my bandwidth was exhausted. The support personnel could not be made to understand that despite this, I was still entitled to remain connected at the throttled rate. They simply refused to help me. So in desperation to get their help, I added 3000MB to my account at a cost of R499. This I did via the iBurst.co.za web site which is the only site my iBurst connection could access. I again called Support and they were just simply unable to help me. This is because iBurst deploys support personnel who don’t know how to do their jobs.

At around 17h00 today I tried again to access the Internet and saw that I was still offline. Eventually, after numerous calls to iBurst support, someone called Jacky called me back and told me that she had reset my account by suspending it and then reactivating it. She asked me to switch my computer and iBurst modem off, bring it back up and then try logging in again. This worked and I am now reconnected. However, I do not consider this to be acceptable service. iBurst completely screwed up my connection this past week and I have been offline for most of this week as a result, which means that I have been completely unable to do my work, which is all conducted online. Furthermore iBurst does not provide a toll free support line so getting their mistakes corrected costs me a lot of wasted phone time. Finally iBurst does not train their technicians to know how to do their jobs. I was incorrectly told that I needed to purchase more bandwidth. If only one person at iBurst knows how to fix things, then they are doing it wrong.

My conclusion remains the same – I refuse to put myself through the wringer with iBurst for another month longer than the contract I have with them says I must.

UPDATE:

Email to both Sandra Smit and Shaun Green of iBurst asking for compensation have been ignored.

Lest you think I am the only person afflicted with an iBurst connection, here’s another South African blogger who received similar treatment. It seems to me that South Africans cannot run a First World quality Internet or telecommunications company. Maybe we’re just too pathetic to do anything right?

iBurst versus Telkom DSL – why you should switch to iBurst

I recently came to the end of my Telkom DSL 24 month contract and I decided to investigate using iBurst as an option because my friend Candy Tothill recommended it to me. I had also previously been disadvantaged by Telkom who supplied me with a DSL router which contained a security hole and as a direct result of that, I suffered bandwidth theft. Telkom refused to restore the bandwidth that I lost, so I felt that their poor customer service should have consequences for them, viz. the loss of my business.

When Candy was down here recently, she plucked this compact little iBurst modem out of her laptop bag and showed it to me. She had brought it down with her to Cape Town from Johannesburg so that she could enjoy Internet access whilst she was here.

The whole concept of having mobile Internet immediately grabbed me, because, of course, with a DSL line, the only place I can use the Net is when I am in my office.

Right now I am a happy iBurst customer. Let me tell you my story…

The first thing you need to know is that iBurst does not make you wait. You can get it and get it right away. I approached iBurst for the first time on Friday Feb 01 2008 and they faxed me the application forms right away. I faxed the forms back to them on Monday Feb 04 2008 and on Wednesday morning early (10h30) I received my iBurst desktop modem and omni-directional antenna delivered to my door via courier.

I was frankly amazed by the speed with which iBurst moved. With Telkom, speed is not a word in their vocabulary. I waited 6 weeks for my Telkom DSL connection to be installed in Dec 2005 and their technicians were incompetent, having to come back several times before the installation was completed. They also missed the date of installation I had been given by several days.

In May 2006 I moved to my present abode and I had to beg and plead with Telkom to move my connection in a reasonable time. It took 2 weeks for that to be affected, and I had to pay for them to move my connection. They also managed to screw up my billing completely in the process. All in all, dealing with Telkom was an incredibly frustrating experience. My advice is to avoid it if possible, and now, of course, you can if iBurst has coverage for your area.

Okay, so I took delivery of my iBurst package and I excitedly unpacked it and read the installation instructions. First step was to install the software, and that is where I hit a snag. When I inserted the iBurst CD, my LG DVD writer could not read it. The disk was faulty. So I called the iBurst helpdesk number printed on the CD and got through to a customer service representative very quickly. He suggested that they courier me a new disk to arrive the next day, but I wanted to get online right away so I asked if I could rather go to my local iBurst office in Canal Walk and get a swop out there. He said I could and gave me the number to call to arrange that. That’s where I hit snag number two.

I got put through to an extremely incompetent (white) woman who was rude and unhelpful and who should just be immediately dismissed by iBurst. They don’t need someone with a Telkom mentality working for them. I asked her directly (twice) if I could just come through to the office and get a swop out but she insisted that I speak to the salesperson who sold me the package. She gave me his JHB number and bounced me back instead of just sorting me out. I slammed the phone down on her. I proceeded to call my father to tell him of the miserable experience I was having with them and he proceeded to phone iBurst and shit on them from a dizzy height until he found someone who escalated my problem to the branch manager of the Cape Town office of iBurst, Marco de Vries.

Marco de Vries sorted me out completely. He organised the replacement package and I drove in and collected it. I also booked to have my iBurst omni-directional antenna installed the next day. I got home and the new CD worked. I installed the software, connected the modem and I was online immediately, albeit with a weak signal strength. Without the benefit of an external antenna, my average signal quality was only 30%, enough to connect, but not good enough to use broadband applications. Nonetheless, I was happy to wait until Thursday to get the antenna installed.

The next day, however, no-one called to tell me they were coming and no-one arrived to do the installation. So in the afternoon, I emailed Marco again (he had given me his business card with his personal email address and cell phone number on it). He apologised for the delay. The external contractor and his in-house technician (Warren) were totally booked up doing installs for other customers that day. I felt let down and I let Marco know. He apologised again and within half an hour I got a call from Warren who arranged to come out Friday afternoon around 13h00 to install me.

Warren kept his appointment. coming slightly before the agreed time and installed the antenna exactly where I wanted it and he did a neat job of it too. I found him to be a pleasant, friendly and competent technician and he affected a very professional installation. The external antenna boosted my signal quality to 100%, which means that I now enjoy up to 1024Kbps connection speed (double that of my DSL512K connection).

Unlike Telkom, iBurst does not charge different rates for different connection speeds. All their customers enjoy the same 1024Kbps broadband speed. iBurst charges only for the amount of data used. This makes logical sense. Telkom is actually ripping off the public when it charges a higher rate for their higher speed connections, because speed means nothing if your bandwidth is capped (as it is in South Africa).

Despite the snags I had, I am blown away by my iBurst customer experience. They got me online and fully installed within days. Whatever bad experience I had with one incompetent iBurst staff member was totally made up for by the attention my problems received from the Cape Town iBurst branch manager, Marco de Vries. He did his company proud. Thank you, Marco, you did an excellent job at satisfying this customer.

I now have a fully functional broadband connection at my office, and if I need Internet access away from my office, I can simply take my very compact and portable iBurst desktop modem with me. Even if I don’t get full signal strength elsewhere, I can still get online at a slower speed.

Pricewise, I also just shaved over R400 a month off what I was paying Telkom. I signed up on iBurst’s Pro Classic package which gives me 3.5GB. However, I was told by my salesperson that they allow up to 7GB on that package. After that, iBurst does not cap me and shut me off completely like Telkom does. Instead iBurst throttles my speed to 64Kbps for the rest of the month. iBurst also gives me the option of topping up to continue enjoying full speed. I pay iBurst R699 per month on the Pro Classic. I can move up to R1029 for the Pro Extreme or R1229 for the Pro Addict.

Since I contracted with iBurst for 24 months, they supplied the desktop modem and external antenna free of charge. Installation of the antenna cost R300.

All in all, I think it’s an excellent choice for the smart South African broadband shopper.