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Irish ripoff broadband

Early 2011, Kilkenny

I think that some broadband providers in Ireland have designed their contracts in a way that deliberately takes advantage of the fact that most people don't know what good internet service is like — and of the fact that Irish people are unlikely to make a strong formal complaint when they realize how badly they're being ripped off.

I signed up for a "mobile broadband" connection with 02, a company that has been popular for years as a mobile-telephone company.

By the way, I'll just make a note here to my American friends about the nomenclature: "cell phone" is a term that makes no sense outside of the realm of telecommunications engineering, and must sound really odd in the ear of anybody not accustomed to it from the early days of the technology. And, while I'm at it, a note to my non-American friends: When the mobile phone emerged in America, there was already a device called a mobile phone. The "cell" in "cell phone" refers to the cells or areas within the service of transceiver towers. One more related note: When I was shopping around for broadband service once in Cork city, I went into the "Carphone warehouse" retail shop and said I was looking for a carphone. The guy looked at me like I was a lunatic, until I told him that I was joking. Anyway, "mobile phone" was something else already in the States when the mobile came along, which, I think maybe, is why the engineers' term got its foot in the door.

Okay, that's enough bullshit. Back to business.

O2 offers a service that uses a USB "dongle." The reception on the device — the size of a flash-memory card — is not bad. The restrictive parameter is the bandwidth allocation. Total through-put is limited to 15 gigabytes per month. I used that in two weeks. The next morning I got notification that I'd gone 5 euro over my allocation. That afternoon I got another — I'd gone over by 10 euro.

I can't claim total innocence in the matter. I knew at that point the limitations within which I was expected to operate — and I knew that 2 cents per megabyte (the cost of "out-of-bundle" usage) is expensive. I just couldn't stop using the internet. I guess that's what they expect me to do. On the phone, a customer-service representative scolded me as if a child. You knew, she said. And that's true; I did.

But I think that few people do. Two cents does not sound expensive. That's in the contract, and it sounds reasonable. But it's not.

Okay, so there's that.

But here's where it gets really pernicious — in my opinion.

Yesterday I rang customer support at O2 because I wanted somebody to explain to me how it is that a customer is meant to know how much he or she has used of their alloted bandwidth — and, which I found even one step further in difficulty, how far beyond that point one has gone, if gone beyond it.

I'd found that page myself, and had made a note of its address in a text file — but it had taken me some time and some guesswork, and I wanted somebody from the company itself to explain to me the process of navigation from their home-page to the page(s) where this information is available to the customer.

Here's how it works:

On the home page, there's a link atop, to the right of the link to the "home page." There's no point wondering why anybody still puts a link to the home page on the home page. Click on "My O2."

On the "My O2" page, there is a link on the left-hand side of the second-tier set of options at the top of the page. "My account" Click on that.

On the "My account" page, you must log in. Then you have eight main options, icons aside a brief description. You must click on "Details since last bill."

Here — I now know — is where you can find out how much expense you've incurred after using your allotment. Unless and until you do so, it's just a list of the data volume of individual sessions — you could add it up if you wanted to....

But before that, if you just want to see the total of the data usage, you must click on one more link. Over in the left-side column, five links down, in small text, is "inclusive units."

I don't think that that term is used in the same way anywhere in the English language.