An open letter to all Pakistani ISPs

bq. This -article- rant was published in the December 2004 issue of ‘Spider magazine’:http://spider.tm/.


As a long time user of the Internet in Pakistan, and having sent many (tens of) lakhs of rupees your way, I write today out of frustration with every single Internet service available today in Pakistan. I am talking specifically about internet for personal usage, not corporate services which are priced well out of the reach of even well off home users.

Internet service is now just as essential as an electricity connection or a water connection (for some) – and in the near future will become so for more and more people. The ISP business is not just about providing an internet connection, worldwide it�s increasingly becoming an essential utility. This is where this is big wide gaping hole in the Pakistani business � as far as I can see, there is nothing catering to the home user beyond the million and one dialup providers.

However, in today�s world dialup is no longer a feasible option for many people. Not only do many people not have phone lines, especially in the poorer areas of Karachi, but these phone lines are in the hand of PTCL � which when it comes to the internet is about as forward thinking as any other Pakistani governmental organization.

I am sick and tired of crap/slow Internet service, and I know hundreds of other people in the same boat. I do not claim to speak for the majority, but in my informal survey I have yet to come across anyone who is satisfied with their current internet service. There are a few who are, but only happy to the extent that their bad service is not as unreliable as the last 10 they used and they have learned not to expect anything better.

In short, I am looking for the following:

*1)* Reliable and fast internet service

*2)* Now this is very important – I do not want DSL, or cable, or technology X. I want reliable internet service – my concern is not the means through which you offer that service, but the quality of the service which I receive. Since DSL goes through PTCL, which is not the most reliable of companies, I am not going to stick with it in the long run. So, as an ISP you must be looking to alternative means of providing internet services, especially those which are fully in your control. That could be upcoming technologies like wireless, or timeworn ones like black magic or wishful thinking – that is really not my concern. Also, if you are providing service through PTCL, please have some sort of a liaison b/w PTCL and the customer – for example if my phone line goes bad I don�t want to be running b/w the ISP and PTCL – you should resolve the issue with them. I don�t mind paying extra for these additional services either.

*3)* Future plans – I want broadband in the future at lower prices, and 128kbps or 256kbps is not broadband. Neither do I want to be switching ISPs every time a new one comes up with a better offer. So, what I am looking for is an ISP with a plan to offer better services at lower prices as it becomes feasible – for example if Pakistan acquires more bandwidth etc. Ideally the ISP should reflect these changes in their plans as it becomes financially viable to do so, and not wait around for others and then follow suit. I don�t want to be stuck with 128kbps either – that is a ridiculously slow speed – so the ISP needs to have a PUBLIC stated plan to move on to better speeds/services as it becomes viable… Basically have some transparency in your operations/plans as regards how they will affect your customer.

*4)* Value added services � DSL, and just about every newfangled internet service can easily support up to 10Mbps speeds, and more advanced forms scale to well over 50 Mbps (example vDSL, or Wimax). While you cannot currently offer such speeds due to international bandwidth limitations/prices, there is nothing stopping you from offering such speeds for LOCAL usage. For example, if I want to transfer data between two computers connected to your local network, I should be able to do so at a minimum of 1MBPS, regardless of what package I have subscribed to. This is technically very easily possibly – If your technical people tell you it would take more than a few hours at the most to implement this throughout your network, I suggest you send them off to a networking 101 course, or hire an outside consultant. Basically, if a service can be provided at a close to zero additional cost, then you should be providing it.

*5)* Local content servers. Provide mirrors of popular Linux distributions, Windows update etc. These should be accessible at the max. throughput your system can support.

*6)* The days of 15mb and lower mailboxes are long gone. Please look into providing larger sized mailboxes and/or webspace. Many free services now provide 1 gigabyte of storage space � so I think a 100mb is a minimum these days. Even my grandmother requires a larger mailbox then 15mb, for family pictures and so on. So don�t think that 15mb is enough for �most people� and it�s only the power users who require more. It�s the other way around – as a power user I�ll never use your email service as there are much better alternatives available for me – it�s the non-power users who would appreciate such a service. As hard drive prices go down then look into giving more space per user. Most of you have been offering that same damned 5mb of space ever since you opened up shop � in that time hard drive capacities have risen by magnitudes while prices have gone down by well over 50 times. Why?

*7)* A page on your website with the status of your internet links. Again, this is one of those things which anyone in your technical stuff should be able to setup in a few minutes. That is all the time it would take � A few minutes once and it would automatically update itself every few seconds till the time you go bankrupt. There are many advantages to this � it will save you money and time spent dealing with irate customers when PTCL chops off your internet connection (trust me they will) � I would much rather not waste time calling when I can just go to your website and see the status of the network. Almost all internet companies abroad provide this facility � I see no reason why local companies cannot manage to do so likewise.

*8)* Some sort of customer forums, or online support system. It is much faster for me to fire off an email or fill out a form on your website then to call and explain problems/suggestions. It�s also easier for you to deal with. I assume you are aiming to provide a service which would make aim to make this unnecessary – but regardless such a system should be place. See any decent international web hosting service or ISP for an example of how this should be.

*9)* Voice over IP � Your policy regards VOIP should be clear. If for governmental reasons you have to block VOIP or any other internet services, please make it clear that you are doing so. If you are blocking any other service or sites or whatever else make a list somewhere on your website.

*10)* VOIP is old hat � start thinking about Video conferencing and how your network will cope under that load.

*11)* Pakistani content � there is a realm of Pakistani content out there. The advent of so many new channels at once has unleashed an entire generation which is now out there producing music, videos, documentaries, movies and new forms of digital content which you haven�t even heard of yet. Provide a platform for them to be able to share this with their peers, and perhaps be able to sell it also. These days these people go around with cd�s and hard drives in hand � why can�t they transfer them over their trusty internet connection? You buy international bandwidth at exorbitant rates � but what about local bandwidth? Who is this grim reaper stopping you from interconnecting with other ISPs and creating an interconnected fast local backbone? If not other ISP�s, at the least what about users who are a 100 percent on your network? If you�re not thinking about such issue�s right now, how will you compete in the future?

*12)* Wireless � In the poorer areas of Karachi, there is only one viable means of providing Internet access, and that is wireless. Urban density is so high in these areas that a meager investment will cover tens of thousands of people. Invest some percentage of your profits into setting up internet kiosks in these areas. In rural India and poor urban areas a number of companies and NGO�s have set up free internet kiosks for the less fortunate, manned by volunteers who look up information, read and write emails and teach others using the internet. These have been a great success in many places (though not all). If not money, you can donate technical know how to one of the many NGO�s and charities operating in these areas. The internet is a great resource for everyone � in fact it has now been declared as one of the essential rights of a human being in the 2003 World Summit on Information Society. Pakistan is a poor country, and your customers will be the small percentage which can afford a computer. How will you, as a leader in the Internet field help in bringing internet access to every man, woman and child? Such schemes will probably cost less than your advertising budget for strewing ugly billboards all over and give you far more good will in return.

Now here is the thing – If you can manage to provide or at least even answer some of the above points, you will gain many customers for LIFE. At the end of the day, it�s all about the money, and without the above I don�t foresee you being anywhere near the top of the ISP food chain for long. The business you�re in is not a fad � IBM might go out of business with the invention of a super-cheap computer and the open source movement might drive Microsoft into bankruptcy but the internet providers of the world have a market for the foreseeable future. Stop thinking about the ISP business as just about selling a product.

20 thoughts on “An open letter to all Pakistani ISPs”

  1. That’s a great write-up KO. I hope it’s heard well at least. All thanks to you in comparing connecting to internet as vital as having electricity and water.

  2. Ejaz: thanks. Not too many people here consider the internet that vital, but back in the days when electricity starting becoming common, I’m sure people must have scoffed at the ones becoming increasingly reliant on it.

  3. that was a great piece.

    at least u got the point through. its really irritating when the isps think that the general public is a bunch of fools. they dont care about us. u are rite about 128 and 256 kb not being broadband. i am glad that we have someone intellegent enough to voice his opinion. why dont u just create a petition on petitionline and have people sign up. that would be an effective way of getting some attention.

  4. Was looking for information on DSL and came across your write-up. I need more bandwidth and was considering to switch from dialup. Its given me something to think about as i might be the one changing from one DSL provider to another.

  5. KO, this is excellent letter and I can not tell enough how glad I am that people of your caliber happen to live in pakistan, I find that lot of the times people just stay quite or perhaps it the lack of knowledge that keeps then quite.

    One point I would like to bring up from your mail about VoIP being old hat, its not old hat perhaps you were thinking of the old net2phone type?

    Voip is just starting to take off, already rolled out in US, Canada and UK on corporate level.

    For consumer market we have started seeing packages but a must thing for VoIP is ADSL/DSL.

    Most large companies are rolling out Voip in their offices, that includes IBM, Seimens, Dell etc. British Telecom have just announced deals for businesses to take advantage of the service.

  6. well ko i was looking for a reliable ISP and had an experience with some of them and thats why this time started research to select the best one or the one which fulfill my requirement.

    I have just started my new Job in a totally Internet related company and in short after spending half a year i found my self, my opinions, my thinking much much different from those old days when ppl used to exciting look at the status bar of IE to comlete and done. We are really living far beyond from what is recent and current. The things or technology we start to implement in our country or use, were when after those technology vanished from hi tech countries and been replaced by better ones.

    You are DEFINETELY and ABSOLUTELY rigth abt the ISPs. They are really focused on draining pplz pocket rather then providing with ATLEAST “Standard Service”. You are absolutely right about eveything u said man the pain the irritation, blabla which every one surely have been through while usin Internet in our country except the corporate sector. I just dont understand why these ISPs do anything or everything to implement new standards to improve their services. You know what is the main reason why these ISPs still survive (being providing the worst internet service) is that we the people of pakistan dont have a single trusted company. Yeah i do agree k there r one or two but they are realy concerned with corporate sectors more than home users. Just let a company just one singly company to come into field and equiped with all the standards and providing the better and enhanced service than there won’t be any one left with these ISPs except the ones who get uninformed.

    Well man i guess thats enough for this time. just to add I recently i install the SO Called GOCDMA (aaarrggghhhh) cant say anything about it excpet this “DONT ASK” and “PATHAAAAAAAATHIC”

  7. SKY dot NET is so very special

    net can make you feel so lost

    It can arrive just like the springtime

    And melt away like morning frost

    they must find ways to fool us

    Always grow lol service with care

    Never ever take for granted

    The great service that we share ( always lol )

    Mistakes are bound to happen

    they may hurt client’s feeling

    Yet don’t give up to service

    It will tear your pc apart

    net resembles a bright flame

    That lights a dark starry night

    server ever let this flame burn down

    Rekindle with all your might

    Take a long rest every day ( server service )

    Look deep into each other’s pc (scaning)

    Never hesitate to show affection

    Small gestures will keep a net alive

    Talk openly about your feelings ( lol n high speed service )

    Take time to show that you care ( about your halal money )

    Treasure each and every moment

    Because to find true net service is rare

  8. Well the comments i had read, solution can be provided in 2020 may be for pakistan, bcz ISPs are just earning and nothing…………………….GOCDMA for Internet is best as I m using 7 computers in my Net cafe…….

  9. This article is probably one of the most intelligent and “on-the-money” pieces I have read. Whenever I visit Pakistan, I am frustrated at the poor level of service that the ISPs offer. Whether it is Cybernet or Digicom or PTCL, they are all bad. What ISPs need to have is robust service or “reliable” service as the letter suggests. Here’s a question: Would users pay a nominal fee for robust wireless service?

  10. Good article, as one reader pointed out, its “on the money”. I think you have some very valid ideas, which if an ISP implements, can be quite popular.

    How about starting up an ISP that would do just about everything you mentioned?Ofcourse not all at the same time but atleast have the same philosophy and vision. Let me know if you’re interested in taking things forward! I work in the telecom sector so share similar interests.

  11. what you forgot to mention is that most ISPs giving a fast net have a limit of charging in increments like 1GB and so on, the more u use the more it costs.

    Even GoCDMA says they got unlimited but on grounds they lied, that unlimited package has a limite of 1GB which means it is not an unlimited connection at all. Similarly, many new DSL comanies have started offering around 1GB per Rs. 1000 , this is insane; the new trends show that internet is bound to be on when your PC is turned on (yes we would liek to compare, compare with USA/Canada) where simple fast cable (and i dont mean the desi cable, the properly assigned one IP per user cale)/dsl costs lesser at about Rs. 1000 for unlimited meaning on 24/7 all days of the year

    From the way things are going, noone is even trying to go towards that, after all it is just data.

    I’ll not jump to the broadband wagon till the companies and the government realise that it is insane the way prices are for bradband, 1GB per month packages are a joke where users can download more than that in one day abroad

  12. what you forgot to mention is that most ISPs giving a fast net have a limit of charging in increments like 1GB and so on, the more u use the more it costs.

    Even GoCDMA says they got unlimited but on grounds they lied, that unlimited package has a limite of 1GB which means it is not an unlimited connection at all. Similarly, many new DSL comanies have started offering around 1GB per Rs. 1000 , this is insane; the new trends show that internet is bound to be on when your PC is turned on (yes we would liek to compare, compare with USA/Canada) where simple fast cable (and i dont mean the desi cable, the properly assigned one IP per user cale)/dsl costs lesser at about Rs. 1000 for unlimited meaning on 24/7 all days of the year

    From the way things are going, noone is even trying to go towards that, after all it is just data.

    I’ll not jump to the broadband wagon till the companies and the government realise that it is insane the way prices are for bradband, 1GB per month packages are a joke where users can download more than that in one day abroad

  13. Really good comments on ISPs , but the major issues is that who is responsible of this poor (Quality of Service) through out in Pakistan. If One will find out reallity then he must have to understand this remarks goes to PTCL . PTCL should manage all ruls and regulations for ISPs . i think if PTCL pay attention on this issue the peoples of Pakistan will get a lot of benifits from internet and with Voip solution international call will be more cheaper than now.Now at the moment whole sell call rate for pakistan is 0.06 cent/per minute in Europe.If we use Voip it can be reduced 50% for pakistan international call.Thanks

  14. This is one of the best-conceived overview about the situation of ISPs in Pakistan and believe me, right now, I am crying my heart out after finding out my self in such a state of disparity. But the thought that hits me harder is that none of those idiots at PTCL and ISPs will read this article, even if they read this nothing will change, or at least this is what I think. One very important issue you missed is:

    Currently all or at least many ISPs have hung up banners at every road cross shouting DSL at lowest prices like Rs. 700 or 1000 etc. But the fact is, who are they fooling, when you look a bit deeper you are hit by a 1 GB per month limit, even a junk 56k dialup connection running at 3 Kbps can have traffic of about 7 GB month ([3Kbps * 60sec * 60mins * 24hrs * 30days] / [1024 * 1024]) and believe me I touch 5 GB per month on my Rs. 500 dialup connection. So what is wrong with these people fooling us with a faster connection (that too just 128 kbps) to get some more profits?

  15. Hi,

    Nice Wrote but to late to find it almost one and half year.But brother your letter cant do any thing accpet peoples awareness.Because the pakistani isp administrators and owners are such f*****g lammer.They never tell you truth about their services problem such like disconnecting and speed.I used brainNet almost two years they have f*****g problem in their billing database and its make trouble for disconnecting.I remind them many times that i have disconnecting problem every night between 23.50 Pm to 00:00 Am.In these ten minutes i was disconnect every day.Even i email to BrainNet owner Mr. Basit Alvi and ask about solution for this problem but he f*****g did’t reply.What the f**k going here.Thousand of complains i submit by telephone to the BrainNet support but they all f*****g lammers they told me that you are having problem with your telephone.I used many ISPs providing servies in lahore but i am not satisfied with any ISP servies.Because they have lack of stability,speed and connectivity.Most important thing is consumers rights which any isp never give to their clients.If an isp have trouble and got down for two or more days and unable to provide services to clients they never give the down time.WTF is this?Why they ain’t think to give the down time to clients.Sorry for some bad language i used but i have more inside me.I can prove this that BrainNet is the lammest isp in pakistan.

  16. well isp doesnot care to give better service they want big bundles of cash thats it. it would be fruit less asking them to get up from their airconditioned offices where sultry flirting secreteries pomping them, how can they leave that fun and go do something productive, go to any isp office and you find the movies going on and on and on, by now we all should know better that they dont care about quality reliability compettition, they are plain dumb mean miser buisnesses counting the looted money at the end of the day and farting out from work places.

    so many people so many times told them to wake up but to no avail. so wake up BHENS KE AAGE BEEN KAB TAK BAJAO GE.

    what is needed is to ask the latest aol. and other companies to offer them to come and establish fibre networks and wifi in pakistan, they need market and pakistan is long awaiting good technology.

    the hinderence for those good companies were always corrupt burocrates who would not let anyone do anything here untill they get commision and then let anyone do whatever, just like pimps.

    so instead of decently asking the bone head isps of pakistan. What those poop heads actually need is a solid force full kick on their buttocks. from someone who know where internet has reached today.

    i suggest write to aol. and ask them to come to pakistan. maybe thata can help they are already giving fiber optic to pakistan. and selling tetly tea.

    asking isps decently wil never help, they will just shift blame here and there. untill some big and good company takes away the cake from them by establishing wifi in karachi islamabad, lahore and few big cities , and fiber 1Gig connections to every one , for one thousand rupees a month. then these stupid isps would die of hunger and beg on streets.

  17. Hi,

    my name is Aamir and i am living in USA and trying my best to get the high speed internet from USA to Pakistan. But due to some reasons why i am stucked until now caz we dont have our own satllite for uplink, as we know our uplink is through by cable which is goin through by under sea. once we get that out of cable and put it on by satliite then we good to go. so please help me out for better solution to get the service from USA to Pk. write me on accountwidu@hotmail.com

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