Picture this:

1) Your internet connection stop working suddenly, as it does every month

2) You dial 1212 and call SLT and work your way through the prompt.

3) You get treated to 10 minutes of advertisements and a message saying all customer agents are busy.

4) You try again. Same message.

5) You try again. You get through. The operator cuts the call.

6) You try again. This time, you get through to a friendly operator who promises that tech support will call you today.

7) Seven days later: tech support gets lost trying to find your house and calls you while you’re in the loo.

This is a pretty common occurrence. If you don’t go through steps 1 to 4 at least once a month, you’re either privileged (or you’re living near some of SLT’s most critical infrastructure). Everywhere else, you resign yourself to the fact that you’re paying 3000 bucks for a connection that works only when you don’t have anything important to do. You tell yourself that the technical team will arrive. Eventually they do arrivive, by which time you feel like Robinson Crusoe and you weep with joy to see the tuk-tuk with the SLT logo pasted on the side. “Ane deiyo!” you shout, only too happy to be reconnected to the Rest Of The World. All is forgiven.

This is SLT. 

In fact, SLT is a strange company, and a fantastic model of Sri Lanka as a whole. You see, we have advertisements and press releases everywhere about their brand-new fiber network, available only to a microscopic minority and with data caps that make the whole thing pointless, while elsewhere, entire regions drop out of the coverage map as they disconnect, harangue the 1212 customer support hotline, and are reconnected only after threatening to call this minister or that. Sounds familiar? Yes, it does.

The problem isn’t the network. By and large, our internet is cheap, especially compared to the world as a whole. SLT’s service, when it does works, actually does work: I have no complaints about speed or downloads. What I do hate is the customer support, which oscillates between good and phenomenally stupid. Consider this conversation, which a friend of mine had which an agent some months ago:

Friend: My Internet is slow. Youtube videos aren’t loading. I’ve subscribed to the 8Mbps package, so it shouldn’t be this bad.

Customer support: Ah, sir. Your number please.

Friend: <tells number>

Customer support: Ah…sir, you’ve used 20 GB already sir! What are you doing with all this data, sir? Don’t you think it’s too much?

Seriously. Who hires these people? We live in a country that’s as legendary for it’s hospitality as it is for civil war and political corruption, and this is the service we get? Tsk, tsk.