One of the things that we were frequently reminded of as we prepared for our move to Bangalore, was that the city is often referred to as the “high-tech” capital of India. With knowledge in hand, we figured that we would be able sign up for high speed internet pretty easily, but this did not prove to be the case. There is one main provider that serves our community, and the top speed that they offer is 512kbps, which is v-e-r-y s-l-o-w, especially if you are trying to stream hockey games. We got hooked up, but started looking for other solutions. We found that our villa was in range for a second provider, who offers 2mbps, at roughly four times the cost of the slow connection. We asked to be hooked up, and three months later we were. It seemed lightning fast!
This spring brought the promise of a third provider, willing to come in to our community and offer fibre connections with speeds of up to 10mbps. They needed a minimum number of sign-ups, and once the threshold was met, they gave us a tentative connection date of May. We were the third people to sign up, and very much looking forward to the start date. As much as the connection we have is workable, we were actually still subscribing to both services. We needed this, as both were frequently down, and if Willy needed to be on a skype call, I need to move to the slower connection to leave him enough bandwidth.
The last few weeks have really opened my eyes as to how business, on some level, is conducted in India. It started with a posting on the internal message board:
“Community contact” wrote:
This is to inform you that Provider Three has pulled out from our community as of yesterday.
A couple of days ago their team was manhandled and threatened by some unknown persons near here while testing the cable. Yesterday our local cable T.V operator mystery fourth company (Manjunath & Jerry) met with me and informed me that – ONLY IF the residents of are willing to pay the rates (given in the attachment) to THEM will any other service provider be allowed to come into the community. The rates that they have offered are about 300% – 500% more than Provider Three’s rates.
… The truth of the matter is, the service offered by mystery fourth company is a monopoly, like the newspaper, the milk supply, etc and all these services are run by Manjunath who over charges us, huge rates on all services and is just not allowing any other service provider to come in………
This shocked both Willy and me. We had read in the history of the message board about one provider sabotaging another to get a leg up, or blocking cables from being run, but the physical violence was unexpected. We didn’t know what to expect.
Members of the community were up in arms. There was talk of boycotts, of arranging meetings, of engaging law enforcement. One suggestion that did get some support was to have all of those who had signed up for the service pay a united visit to the “broadband monopoly”. Further suggestions were that the owner of provider three should be informed, as he was “an old thug himself”, and would make “mincemeat of Manjunath and company” when he found out. As I read this, I pictured the fights that used to occur in the village where my cottage is located. There were two large families that accounted for a large portion of the village’s 1000 residents. When they disagreed (which happened pretty regularly, especially on a Saturday night after the bar closed), they would block the main street and fight it out with shovels, rocks, and sticks.
As it stands now, the community is trying to resolve this without resorting to violence, or encouraging violence by any party. Members of the community have stated that they are watching, and have discussed the problem outside of the message group and have considered “a number of actions”. It’s definitely a sobering view of the growth of certain segments of the economy here. I’m a little afraid to see where this goes next. Until then, I hope that at least one of my connections stays up.