As someone who will naturally opt for the fastest, highest capacity telecom link available, I eagerly subscribed to Starhub's cable modem service when it first came out.
Things worked pretty well when I was the only subscriber in the building let alone the neighbourhood. But as time went on, things started to slow down. More annoyingly, there were sudden unexplained service outages.
It would be fair to say that organizations in Singapore are reluctant to engage customers (or voters) in dialogues about service. Whether crashing airplanes or failing to provide reasonable service, the first reaction is typically a defensive denial, followed by a suggestion that the person questioning is somehow not competent or smart enough to "understand".
Which brings me back to my ISP. While pondering the slow performance of my Internet link, I started looking for some absolute way to document the actual performance I was receiving versus the contracted commitment. Imagine my surprise to discover the following:
You acknowledge and accept that as with any network, actual downstream speed when using the Service is affected by many factors including without limitation :-
overall network traffic condition;
performance and configuration of your computer or equipment connected to the Network;
type of data accessed, whether non-cached or cached data;
location and configuration of the accessed server; and
performance characteristics of each component of the data network, the number of users and the extent of all users' compliance with such conditions and requirements as set out by us.
You further acknowledge that we do not warrant or give any guarantee on data transfer speed or any other aspect of the Service. We hereby exclude all warranties, whether express or implied by law, regarding the use of the Service (including without limitation the accessibility, reliability or accuracy of the Service) and the performance and/or condition of the Network.
Which effectively means of course, that they are promising nothing, and as a customer your rights to expect service are precisely - none.
Naively, I went ahead and documented the performance issues that I was having by running tracert and ping to show the actual time it was taking to move packets. One of the traces was for the SCV web site, and all were above 400ms.
I presented this information to SCV via email and got a resounding silence. I sent it again, and nothing. So I wrote a letter to the regulator, the IDA, suggesting that as the keeper of the public interest, they might want to have a look at the service being provided by one of their licensed service providers.
Shortly thereafter, I received a phone call from SCV asking why I had complained to the IDA. Note that they were not interested in whether I had a problem, just why I had the temerity to do something about it. They went on to assure me that they met all standards and had the statistics to prove it.
Now, I have been in the network business for a very long time, and uptime and performance statistics reported against an entire network are next to useless indicators of individual link performance. You can report 99% uptime, but the fellow experiencing the 1% is still out of service. The suggestion that SCV deal with the actual performance numbers was met with a repetition of the statement that they exceed IDA performance standards, which apparently refer to the network as a whole. (more research required to verify)
Things actually did improve somewhat after all this, so I guess there is some value in having raised my concerns.
It remains disconcerting to find oneself forced to sign increasingly one-sided contracts for service. Perusing a credit card terms of service agreement or an internet banking agreement is dangerous to one's mental health. The companies concerned could save a lot on lawyer's fees by simplifying the contracts to read:
Pay us money. We don't owe you anything. If we screw up, we are not responsible, but you probably are.