Sun, 06 Aug 2000

Do call me, I will not be calling you

JAKARTA (JP): For those of you who enjoy chatting on the phone all day, let me give you these words of encouragement: You are likely to become a poor man faster than Dow Jones investors a couple of months ago. I say this because PT Telkom is planning to increase our telephone rates.

We, the customers, asked them why they were hiking our rates once again, after last putting them up in February 1999. Telkom answered, "The reason for this raise is ... Wait a minute! We don't need a reason! We are in a monopoly market and we don't have any competitors. We can raise the rate anytime we want to!"

No, of course they did not say that, although they probably had that thought in mind all the time. They did say the purpose of the raise was to meet rising telecommunications costs.

What are these "costs"? After all, we do not know what the people at Telkom are doing with their day. We only assume that their everyday activities entail:

Printing our telephone bills.

Receiving complaint calls about disconnected lines.

Receiving subsequent calls from the same customers because their lines remain out of order.

Receiving bomb threats from the very same customers because it has been a year since they first reported the disconnections.

Digging up holes in the street to repair cables, or to find the best place to play hide-and-seek, or whatever reason it is which leads them to keep on digging up the same spots on the same streets.

"We need more funds to expand our network," the company says.

Many customers would retort: "What network? All the people I know already have telephone connections. Plus, I have too many telemarketing people breathing down my phone. Do we really need more additions to the network?"

Apparently we do.

Consider the fact that there are only six million telephone lines in this country with a population of more than 200 million. Shocking, isn't it? Thus, we have to agree that Telkom needs to do something so that people in remote villages have an equal chance as us to listen to music by Kenny G. and Barry Manilow when they are put on hold.

Still not satisfied? What you probably need to do is examine the many financial statements of Telkom and study the technical telecommunications stuff.

Of course, you will not do that, and neither would I. I mean, most of us are clueless as to how they determine the amount of income tax to cut from our monthly paychecks, let alone the conundrum of working out telecommunications figures.

Or we should organize a protest rally, which is what everybody else seems to do these days when they do not agree with something, and descend on Telkom's headquarters? Should we start using singing telegrams to deliver urgent messages? Should we pack our teenage children off to their grandparents' houses to end their endless use of the family phone?

Fortunately, the government and Telkom have to get approval from the House of Representatives for the hike. Since the latter are elected by the people, I am sure they will vote with our best interests in mind.

They will start their comments with "for the sake of the people ... " because they always do, whatever the issue. Let us hope that this time they do end up making the right decision -- for the sake of the people -- so that we can understand the results and tolerate the consequences. And let us hope that no matter how much the telephone rates are, they will not silence the strains of Kenny G. and Barry M. from all the calls put on hold.

-- E. Effendi