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An American's View of SPT Telecom

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An American's View of SPT Telecom

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It did not take me long to dislike SPT Telecom here in the Czech Republic. The first time I picked up a telephone and tried to call somebody, I was shocked at the poor quality of the connection (I was calling somebody in here Prague not in Timbuktu). That is, of course, when I was actually connected. There were many times when this simple almost infallible procedure (in America) failed or the length of time required to make the connection took what I considered to be an unreasonable amount of time. "I'm just calling down the street. Why's it taking so bloody long!" Welcome to the wonderful world of Telecom!

Later I was surprised, but not overly surprised thanks to my initial experiences, to hear that some of my students had trouble connecting to the Internet at modem speeds of higher than 9600 (at least 14,000 is required for Netscape, etc. ­- 115,200 is ideal for 28.8 or 33.6 kbps modems). Stable high speed connections are things that one takes for granted in America. Sure, every now and then you lose your connection and have to reconnect to your ISP, but these instances are not the norm.

Another shock came when I was told that local calls are not free (they are not free in America either, but you are not charged per minute or impulse). Seven years ago, before I started playing with computers and modems, I would have thought that this wasn't that bad of an idea. At that time in America, one paid $15 to $20 each month for the local phone service. This service provided an unlimited number of local calls and unlimited call lengths. Sounds great, eh? Most Americans probably were paying more money than if the companies used an impulse method like Telecom's (unless they had many local friends or family and loved to talk forever with them). To save money, the first time I lived by myself, I had a special deal with the local phone company where I had only 30 "free" calls each month; however, the length of these calls still did not matter. Then I installed my first modem (2400 baud). Suddenly, my usage pattern went from 20-30 calls a month with an average length of 2-8 minutes to 50-100 calls a month with an average length of 45-60 minutes. Years later I would log into the Internet nightly for 2 to 5 hours at a time -- something I would never had done, if I had to pay per minute.

All these negative things about SPT Telecom makes an American ask "Why?" The simple answer is that Telecom has a monopoly and is therefore slow to change (at least slow to change for the consumer's good). There most be more to it than this. In America, AT&T used to have a monopoly on the long-distance telephone service (long-distance and local services are provided by two separate companies in America -- strange, eh?). The government forced AT&T to break up; thus, creating a bunch of smaller companies known as "Baby Bells" and thus, allowing new companies (Sprint, MCI, etc.) to compete with AT&T and the Baby Bells. This competition has lead to cheaper rates, but more confusing schemes (hypothetical example -- 19 cents/minute during the weekends to states far away, 25 cents/minute during the weekend for states nearby, but 10 cents/minute to friends who use the same service provided and who are on your "friends list" -- the ad of course only mentions "Rates as low as 10 cents/minute on the weekend").

Local phone companies and other "utilities" also have what is known as a "local monopoly" -- i.e., only one company can provide a given utility service (fuel oil, natural gas, electricity, local phone, TV cable, etc.) for a predefined area. This makes the life of people easier (you do not have to choose between competing services), and should, in theory, make the services cheaper, because the companies do not have to spend large amounts of money in advertising. This might be nice; however, there are some problems. Sure the local phone service is better than SPT Telecom's service; however, the customer has little say about what a "local" call is. If you live in a big city, you can call locally many more people over a much wider area, then if you live in a small town like my parents. Three years ago my parents could only call two other very small towns and one small city for free. In fact, the local high school was and is a long distance phone call from my parents town (very annoying, when I was in high school). Everyone also complains about "arbitrary" gas or electricity price hikes. Still, most people do not complain much about these utilities and their monopolies; they complain more about the cable "local monopolies." Where you lived influenced what cable channels you could watch. A large city cable provider might offer 50-100 channels. The small town where my parents are from gets only 30-40 channels (mostly "Home Shopping" and other stupid channels -- nothing "cool" like the Sci-Fi Channel, Bravo (Arts & Entertainment), or the Independent Film Channel). This situation has lead people to pressure politicians to end the "local monopoly" rule for utilities.

Given this history of recent dissonance against "local monopolies" and my good experiences with using the phone in America, I gladly supported the boycott of SPT Telecom and signed the on-line petition. Why should we be robots blindly following what the government or big business (the true government in America) dictates? Instead we should scream and fight for our rights as customers and human beings. If a free-market system is to work properly, then there must be competition. Lack of competition makes companies lose sight in the goal of providing the best possible service at the best possible price (ideally motivated by a sense of solidarity, but realistically motivated by greed and profit, which seems to be the best motivation for human beings). Just look a Microsoft, the anti-model of this goal (the worst possible service for a large price), for a reality check on what happens to monopolies in capitalism; the company become like a totalitarian dictatorship. Totalitarianism should not be tolerated anywhere -- as a form of government or in business. Therefore, I urge you to get out there and protest SPT Telecom, and it's totalitarian nature.

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Zatím žádné hodnocení
TS FULK,. An American's View of SPT Telecom. Ikaros [online]. 1998, ročník 2, číslo 10 [cit. 2020-08-04]. urn:nbn:cz:ik-12369. ISSN 1212-5075. Dostupné z: http://ikaros.cz/node/12369

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