Internet Access Nightmare in Nigeria

It is not uncommon to find Nigerians with more than one modem (in some cases up to 3 or 4 modems from different ISPs) still looking for a reliable ISP due to the problems they encountered while trying to use the internet services that have been paid for. Some are already looking for buyers of these modems or phone lines even on public forums.

I don’t know if there are any regulators in this area and it will be very unfortunate if in fact there are any because the disconnect between what the ISPs promise and advertise on the one hand and what they deliver on the other hand is very noticeable and embarrassing.

Some major problems with the ISPs in Nigeria

1. Bandwidth Every single ISP is guilty of this problem as many of them (from dial up internet service to broadband internet service providers) cannot even guarantee up to 15% of any advertised bandwidth they are advertising to Nigerians. I have not subscribed to more than 2 ISPs but have used internet services belonging to others using different ISPs and the story is the same.

I once used a broadband service that was marginally better (in terms of speed) when compared to a dial up service I use and I told the subscriber that there was no reason for him to spend that much if the speed is basically dial up like. Why would ISPs advertise bandwidths they cannot or will not provide? Why trick Nigerians into parting with hard earned money only to turn around and be sending text messages once in a while apologising for clearly avoidable problems while smiling to the banks at the same time?

Unfortunately, unless you have a trusted source to advice you on any internet subscription you will end up paying, using and regreting like a lot of Nigerians and this is not only bad but unacceptable. 3kbs to 10kbs for dial up and 13kbs to 30kbs for broadband and the much touted 3G from a GSM company hovers around 16kbs to 35kbs.

2. Up time / Availability Fair enough many of the ISPs have reasonable backup plans for power supply even though some have very bad records as regards updates on their servers which usually shuts down the internet service. Subscribers are usually never informed about any updates whether scheduled or otherwise and subscribers only get to know after making calls to the support centres (if someone was kind enough to answer the calls anyway) and in most cases either the support guys have no clue as to the time frame involved or they do not understand what they may have been told because they are usually wrong in any time frames they provide.

One crazy experience (still ongoing) is one with an ISP that relies on NITEL for internet access and the average uptime for this ISP is like 50% because there is always an equipment failure at NITEL or there is no diesel to power generators at NITEL. Even new subscribers are not spared the embarrassing text messages they receive as I have a friend I warned before he subscribed to the ISP for a 24hrs internet access and for close to 2 weeks now he has not been able to access the internet but the money I believe is sitting tight in the ISPs bank as I write this.

Even though there are other issues like customer support and puzzle like subscription plans I believe the average subscriber would be just fine having an internet access that is close to the advertised bandwidth and sees a very reasonable uptime instead of receiving text messages full of promises to rectify issues ASAP every now and then. Assuming we do not have any regulators I believe the time is now to get one as this present scenario where Nigerians are being short changed by ISPs is very bad.

One does not need to try out many ISPs before settling for a reliable one. Any regulators (whether existing or planned for) should make it mandatory for ISPs to state very clearly the minimum guaranteed bandwidth that subscribers should expect so that Nigerians would know before hand what they are getting into before paying for the subscriptions. One of the major reasons why the ISPs have problems with bandwidth is the selfish drive for more customers/subscribers without any well laid out plan to provision their internet bandwidth to accomodate increasing number of subscribers.

A particular stated bandwidth will be ok for fewer number of subscribers just as the speed will become slower when you add more people to the netwrok and force them to share the same bandwidth that did not present problems when fewer people where using it.

Little wonder web developers do not even bother developing applications that demand decent download speeds to function well. This is one area that must be fixed as we are increasingly getting into an information age where access to the internet should be ubiquitous and not a priviledge or class thing.

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