The Big Data Plan Rip-Off -By Tope Fasua

Filed under: National Issues |
Tope Fasua

Tope Fasua

So, just like in 2001, I think we should pitch these phone companies together. In the first place, I sometimes feel they are rigging the game. Y’know, just like we drive to the fuel station and we see N87 per litre on the metre, but the damn attendant is selling to us at N120 per litre! How they do it I don’t know. But DPR just closed a few of them lately. Welcome to Nigeria; the most religious country on earth. If filling stations can rig metres, why not ISPs?.

This matter is touching me to the marrow right now. Imagine! So, these our phone companies and Internet Service Providers are trying to convince, abi na ‘confuse’ me, that I use 1GB (one gigabyte) daily! Bia, when did I start hearing of ‘Gigabyte’ sef? I just did a quick google search and it says the first Gigabyte Hard-drive, IBM 3380 was manufactured in 2013. You see, Gigabyte used to be the stuff that ‘mainframe’ computers, as huge as a fridge was made of. But now, MTN says I used that much everyday!

Not only MTN. Which haven’t I tried in Nigeria? I’ve tried Visafone, Spectranet, Startech, Starcomms…all the works. Same result. Sometimes, some of them are unnecessarily slow, so you just want something that works; at any cost.

Then they start to hit you. We live in the knowledge age, and everyone of us will get smarter over time. Google is everyone’s friend, to ask questions and find out stuff. That means that we will protest every now and then. The emerging global economic terrain is one whereby technology creates seamless transparency which challenges businesses, their profitability, and of course, the wages of workers and jobs too. I am of the view that the greatest contribution of technology is to make life cheaper even if it takes jobs away. But life will become cheaper, quicker for societies who are aware and who speak up.

I buy 7.5GB of data from MTN for N8,000. Within a week, everything disappears. In my office, we buy 50GB of data from Spectranet for N17,500. In 10 days it disappears. In between using my own data on my MTN phone – which I also tether to my laptop, I sometimes rely on my wife’s internet subscription. Same story, different network. If I have to renew my MTN data (as I usually do), I spend at least N24,000 ($110 monthly). I hardly stream videos, mind you. If I renew for my office, I will spend N52,500 (about $250). Between myself and my wife, and our offices, we spend about N100,000 (over $450) on internet services alone, each month!

I think what is going on here is akin to what went on in the beginning of Nigeria’s mobile phone epiphany. In 2001/2, we would actually purchase a sim card for between N20,000 and N30,000 and under the flat N50 per minute tariff regime, some of us spent another N40,000 monthly just to talk to each other. Sometimes I think about the ‘stupid’ manner we (or I) have spent money in the past and shudder. Indeed it is a Nigerian thing. We just spend. I don’t think it is sustainable and this is not how to run a society but our leaders seem not to care about these things. The average Briton thinks about how best to spend his/her money, seeks bargains. Ditto an American. But the Nigerian just spends. He spends, knowing that that God loves him more that the Brit or Yankee, and would always bail him out before he hits the ground. God shows up actually, but the Nigerian helps himself too many times. If he is a civil servant, that is when he gets desperate. If he is a cashier in a private firm, he pilfers.

So, just like in 2001, I think we should pitch these phone companies together. In the first place, I sometimes feel they are rigging the game. Y’know, just like we drive to the fuel station and we see N87 per litre on the metre, but the damn attendant is selling to us at N120 per litre! How they do it I don’t know. But DPR just closed a few of them lately. Welcome to Nigeria; the most religious country on earth. If filling stations can rig metres, why not ISPs? In this instance there is no way of benchmarking or confirming anything. Everything is in the ‘clouds’. Oya, go and find it there na! I feel that these bytes thing is running faster than ever these days! Why?

In 2003 or so, Glo came on board and spoilt the market for MTN, which never refunded the excess charges it had ripped off Nigerians and transferred in Dollars to its South African investors. Ehmmm… Not that Glo was just using its ‘church mind’, but that was the ONLY way it could come back into reckoning having lost ground seriously due to a rift with government. In fact, a certain obnoxious policy whereby unused credit in one’s account disappeared after two weeks had to be ditched when it became apparent that subscribers were ditching Glo phones fast! Interconnectivity was a nightmare in those days and so, subscribers who enthusiastically put N15,000 call credit in their accounts saw most of the money disappearing after two weeks. They couldn’t believe their eyes.

Before writing this I called around to find out how this internet data thing works elsewhere. In the UK, for about 18 pounds (N6,000) a month, most homes have UNLIMITED data. In the US, same thing, maybe a little more expensive. My friends abroad should help me confirm how it works though. As I stated earlier, TECHNOLOGY, which we don’t produce, is only good for making life easier and cheaper. But apparently those who are in the first line of disseminating technology (which they don’t produce), in Nigeria, take delight in keeping Nigerians in the dark for as long as possible… and ‘hammering’ us!

UNLIMITED DATA ACCESS is apparently now the fad around the world, and I believe strongly that we can pay a lot less than we are paying for these things. Every of these big businesses in Nigeria tells us of all the infrastructure problems as if small businesses exist in a different planet and don’t also face the same challenges. Small time you will hear of ‘diesel’ and ‘generator’. Truth; they all see Nigeria as good for ripping off only. That is why MTN, Hilton, Shoprite and some other chains make their most money from Nigeria. It is Nigerians I pity. The tunnel vision is something else. So long as we have avenue to get some, we don’t ever think about the collective. But whether you are ‘blessed and highly favoured’ or something to that effect, remember that when you pay for these exorbitant services, you are basically a mugu. Money spent can never be regained. And what goes around surely comes around. When you get an avenue to rip off the system and ignore systemic malaises, you end up running from pillar to post in a dysfunctional society. They are not ‘mumus’ in developed countries for thinking the way they think and organising their societies in a SUSTAINABLE manner.

Now, biko nu, Dan’Allah, Ntori Olo’un, what do we do about this data rip-off? Which ISP will give us unlimited browsing for like N5K a month?

Tope Fasua, an economist and consultant, is CEO of Global Analytics Consulting.

 

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