First Media cable Internet in Jakarta and the alternatives

So let’s say you’re thinking about a sharehouse — or, for that matter, an “eksekutif kost” — in Central Jakarta or thereabouts. What about Internet? That’s just as important as electricity. Gotta have both to get online, huh.

I remember when Speedy ADSL internet at home cost nearly Rp 1 mil/ per month. That was last year.  How was the service? Well, exactly the same as paying Rp 200,000 a month for cable Internet from First Media when it doesn’t work.  A grey browser is a grey browser.

Products offered by Jakarta ISP’s are generally falling in price while quality improves. That’s the good news. For the most part, it’s possible to sign up with a decent Jakarta ISP for home or office without being locked into a long-term contract.  That’s cool! People can and do change their ISP frequently to take advantage of falling prices. And ISP’s make a lot of changes, too, most notably, unilaterally raising the price of existing products and allowing quality to sag in order to nudge you toward higher-priced ones.

Changing your ISP in Jakarta involves the usual transaction costs, eg, the customer service telephone twilight zone and technicians in your bedroom. And maybe some fun little stuff you’ve never seen  before.  Like ISP’s who encourage you to pay via bank transfer or ATM but act surprised when they receive the payment and force you to fax them “documentation.”  Or contracts scribbled illegibly in disappearing ink mixed with cable-guy sweat.  And , my favorite, the paperless / SMS/ E-mail billing. It isn’t really billing at all. It’s just a way of opening up an alternative channel which can be used both for collections and new sales.

I well remember when dial-up was a viable option. Pretty fast sometimes, too. Except when it didn’t work. Of course, the Internet probably doesn’t work all the time at the office, either. Most office buildings in Jakarta’s CBD are wired for cable Internet. Like office space itself, you can get into it pretty cheap.

And you get exactly what you pay for when it comes to ISP’s in Jakarta: the misery – financial or otherwise — of having the Internet frequently not work. Technically, it’s not that the Internet is broken, right? It’s that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is cheating you, since you’re paying for service you’re not getting, ie, access to the Internet. And it’s not only the down time that matters. For example, with First Media here in Menteng, a couple times a day a couple times a week; often on weekend; every time there’s a big national holiday.  It’s the reliability. Being able to slowly go about answering E-mail and surfing the web is entirely different from being unable to do those things due to the useless trickle of broadband coming out your end of the pipe.

The game isn’t new and neither are the players. In this area the DSL and cable ISP’s are First Media (formerly Kabelvision and Indonesian government Telkom (whose ADSL product is called Speedy):

How to Pay a Fair Price to Jakarta ISP’s

1)      Research Internet options in Jakarta online (a pain, not much info there and it all depends on where you live)

2)      Ask your neighbors what works for them

3)      Just sign up for something, keeping very careful track of :

a.       The date the service was initiated

b.      The manner in which you agreed to the service such as by telephone. (This is a clue to how you are to cancel the service)

c.       The name of the service (ie Telkom “Speedy”)

d.      The initial monthly fee (usually discounted) and subsequent normal fee

e.      Who will pay for replacing the modem if necessary (borrow, don’t’ buy a modem from the ISP if possible)

f.        The maximum claimed speed of the Internet Service

g.       The incremental amount you would have to pay to make the service faster

4)      Give your new Internet service a try. Test the speed under different conditions and take notes.

5)      Keep an eye your ISP (watch as they fool with the name, price, billing method and payment method of your service)

6)      Shop for a new ISP by telling the competition where you live and how much you pay(call from work and take notes if don’t want to agree to something dumb.)

7)      Give your current ISP a couple second chances (some customer service reps in Jak are experts at convincing the customer they’re always wrong; sometimes there is a problem on your end or a fallen tree or something; usually it’s just the ISP trying to scam an extra rupe)

8)      Sign up for a second (simultaneous ) ISP service and enjoy the blissful redundancy while it lasts

9)      Cancel ISP 1 (the ISP isn’t going to like this. Just go stand in line, wave the fine print, tell ‘em it’s a done deal, and document everything)

10)     Return to Step 4 and repeat

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