A letter in the Fiji Times today seemed to demonstrate yet one more problem with Fiji's emergence from a monopoly telecommunications environment. Some consumers refuse to let go of monopoly thinking:
Now the people of Fiji have to suffer again at the hands of Vodafone's high internet charges and the pathetic service.
Charging $39.95 for 1 GB and $69.95 for 3 GB is a big rip off.
Above all the speed of the internet is very slow. It will continue till Digicel starts to provide internet services. In the meantime, Vodafone will continue to make as much money as possible.
It seems no one can stop Vodafone.
Vodafone has been giving a lot of pain to the people of Fiji and it has kept its record intact.
This could be a legitimate letter to write but ONLY if we were living in a non-competitive environment. Some people seem to be forgetting that we actually have CHOICE now, something that has been missing from telecommunications life in Fiji up until just recently. What is the letter writer's problem then?
When Oceanic began business, I was paying almost $4,000 per month to Connect for a 128k dedicated connection of questionable reliability. I could whinge and complain a great deal but there was no other option available. When Unwired Fiji came onto the scene and offered an alternative, I switched. It would have been pointless for me to begin complaining about Unwired's pricing if I had a problem with it.
Vodafone's Flashnet is actually a great Internet option as far as its ability to meet my own needs are concerned (and in my opinion). It doesn't replace our office's fixed KIDANET connection but it has allowed me and my staff to stay connected at more-than-reasonable speeds when away from the office, especially when I'm in Nadi. This was NEVER an option before. I love it.
For me, Flashnet is about the convenience of mobile access and THAT is absolutely worth a premium price. Of course we all want bigger usage caps and that is likely forthcoming but attacking Vodafone (or any of the providers) because the pricing model is unappealing is misguided in a competitive market. If there are legitimate complaints about the service performance, its billing processes, or customer support faults, then feel free to write away as those are acceptable arguments. Today's letter, however, offered very little and the attacks on how Vodafone has historically been "giving pain to the people of Fiji" is outdated and unfair, especially because it's no longer relevant.
I will be the first person to jump up and down over some of the politics and absurdities of the deregulation process in Fiji. It feels like it has taken so long to make progress and I write that from only living here seven years. Part of the deregulation process must be to keep reminding consumers that they do have choice. It is that choice, then, which should reduce the number of these kinds of letters in the dailies.
Competition is not about price. It's much more about service and this is the new lesson to learn.
[Disclosure: Oceanic counts Vodafone as a client but these opinions are my own.]