Am sure there are times you load airtime or data bundle on your prepaid mobile phone and in less than a day you have no calling or data minutes left. And for those who travel abroad, have you ever had to pay for WiFi at a hotel you are staying or make international calls at exorbitant rates? Yes we totally understand that companies need to charge for things that cost them money; and profit-making is at the heart of our economy. But I always wonder why they charge for certain things in the first place?
I know of individuals who send up to UGX 300,000 ($118) for capped unlimited internet per month and based on our just developing economy such bills can drive even the most self-complacent techie into a screaming fit. We sometime wonder if we are getting raw deals from all these ads we hear as they end up reflecting huge amounts on our final monthly bills. Herewith, four fees that make no sense at all—and yet we still fork over money for them of course some people will agree with me and others will object.
1. International data fees and roaming charges
You have just left Entebbe airport to go ‘outside countries’ with your mobile internet data bundle, you land at the destination country only to find out that instead of the roaming carrier deducting money from your data bundle, they attack your calling minutes and reduces it to shambles.
I was going to South Africa for a week to attend a tech conference, not to chat on the phone. How much money could I possibly spend?There are workarounds,
of course: Go to a local smartphone provider to buy a SIM card or (if
you travel to that region often), a dedicated phone to use on trips. Always try to find out if your carrier has an overseas plan (at extra cost, naturally). Most people have to depend on VOIP, free Wi-Fi hotspots, and the kindness of strangers. But is that all necessary why should we have to? We know the technology exists that allows one to use this data bundle anywhere in the world we only wonder why its not utilized.
2. Bank fees for automated machines and processes
Similarly, until only a few years ago, Ugandan Banks wouldn’t let me schedule a payment on a weekend however urgent it was. It posted the payment on Monday along with a late charge. Seriously, guys? Last time i checked Computers never had business hours! Some banks charge customers a UGX 500 ($0.2) fee for transacting on an ATM within their own system. Yet, if you go into the branch and talk to the bank teller for 20 minutes, you aren’t charged a dime.
The worst of these may be the charges for using VISA cards. You and I—with our decent IT salaries—are unlikely to use these variations on debit cards.
I don’t mind being charged for services that cost a company money, which includes paying its employees a living wage for doing something useful (such as putting up with complaints from customers who blather at them for over 30 minutes). But charges like these are beyond ridiculous.
3. Pay TV for free-to-air channels in the name of Digital migration
Sometimes the ridiculous fees are unavoidable, but in other circumstances we have only ourselves—and our lazy complacency—to blame. Uganda is since last year undergoing migration from analog to digital TV and the general pubic has been brain washed that in order to continue watching local TV channels on their existing analog TV set — they need to subscribe to a pay TV service provider like GoTV or Zuku. It’s true that these DVB-TV set top boxes provide some of the local free to air channels on top of other channels added, but all that is not necessary for a basic user.
With a one time purchase of a Digital to Analog converting set top box, you will continue to watch your good old local channels with the same analog TV hence saving your self a monthly subscription of over UGX 25,000 ($10.2) . The communications regulator, UCC has tried to sensitive the masses but seems the message has not sunk in yet.
4.Hotel Internet charges
Is hotel Wi-Fi free or do we have to pay for it? Once, the hospitality industry might have argued that Internet access
was an “extra” that wasn’t required for business travelers. They charged the minority who used the service, just as they charged you to watch a premium movie channel. Now things have changes drastically; we’ve come to expect connectivity
as a God-given right whenever we travel. In most cases when am doing my hotel booking in a foreign country a part from the illusion of the comfort the hotel website depicts through pictures, it should have ‘free’ Wi-Fi. In the past recent years according to a report the number of guests that request and use Wi-Fi has increased to 35 percent, and hotel guests’ demand for a great Wi-Fi experience is at the top of the list of preferred amenities.
Finding an affordable hotel (read as cheap) with free Wi-Fi is like looking for a needle in a hay-stack and even if you find one the service is not guaranteed. My last travel to Paris, i booked a hotel (names withheld) with a promise of free Wi-Fi only to find that the service only exists in specific areas of the hotel (Did I mention that I paid $28 for 24 hours of Internet access in a hotel room in Amsterdam? Did I?)
Well look on the bright side, it could have been worse. I could have stayed in one of those while luxurious hotels in the London, which charges an extra $32 a day. To add insult to injury, the connectivity performance often is dreadful where it is available. And we pay for it, however grumpily, because we already got undressed and crawled into bed with our laptops and the chocolate the hotel left on the pillow. In my next travel which is really soon, i have decided to use my portable 4G hotspot, buy a SIM and data bundle from the Airport and browse away, that way am sure my phone or laptop will be connected 24/7.
Which tech fees drive you crazy? Tell us about them in the comments.