As internet service providers around the world decrease data prices to aid in efforts against the coronavirus, ours are increasing them. Why?
POTRAZ Oh POTRAZ, where art thou…
This week has been a monumental one in Zimbabwe and around the world as the impact of the COVID-19 Coronavirus continues to be felt around the globe. On Tuesday president Mnangagwa declared the country to be in a state of emergency, with measures that have ranged from bans of gatherings reaching 100 people and closure of schools and educational institutions by the 24th of March. The country itself is still adjusting to the announcement but as the coronavirus situation has evolved around the globe one thing has become apparent: in many countries around the world the general aim is for everyone to keep things under control, and help each other manage the virus and it’s disruptions to most aspects of human life. Which is why internet service providers all over the world are aiding by making the internet (and thus access to information online) cheaper, decreasing internet bundle prices, removing data caps or even making it free in certain regions for limited amounts of time. This is being done by companies in the USA, Europe, China ad even as close to home as South Africa. Which begs the question, why are our own internet providers and mobile network operators increasing their prices.
As we already said, the need for decreasing internet/data prices in other countries is pretty clear. People need information, and the right information to be exact, and internet access is a direct line to that. No matter where you are in the world you can likely get the best information on COVID-19 if you have a connection to the net, which is why the World Health organization (WHO) has made it a priority to share information on multiple social media platforms alongside its own official sites and web portals. Internet companies making it easier to access these materials are at the very least, doing their part to help, while of course gaining the right kind of social responsibility marketing that can gain them more customers in the long run. AT&T and Verizon in the USA have cut data caps, while MTN in South Africa is reducing its own mobile data prices, yet in the past two weeks Econet, NetOne, ZOL and TelOne have all increased their tariffs seemingly to target all the social distancing that may happen soon. ZOL especially, increased tariff increases after the declared state of emergency and you can almost bet every college student going home had their eyes watering when they saw them. It’s almost as if internet providers in Zimbabwe think that in a country that’s already suffering from rapid inflation, cash shortages, a price hike on basic commodities and now an international pandemic that comes on top of a struggling health system, everyone still has money to afford their incremental price hikes especially when widespread internet access might be needed the most.
Amusingly enough companies would likely benefit more from decreasing their prices and aiming for customer adoption as well. Telecel especially seems primed for this as the company is on it’s last legs and any kind of customer adoption strategy might benefit them more in the long term. But instead, (in typical Telecel fashion really) they’re silent, seemingly undeterred by the situation around them while they continuously sink into an unwinnable situation. NetOne seems to be content with the customers it has now so it continues to follow Econet’s lead, hiking prices just enough to stay under Econet’s price but also further and further away from what customers call cheap. And as for TelOne and ZOL, well even their initially more affordable LTE plans are putting people in a headlock while ADSL or fibre services remain an “If you have to ask “area for the common Zimbabwean. Amusingly enough, this is where you would expect POTRAZ to step in as well, but either this problem hasn’t exactly hit their radar yet, or they don’t’ exactly care either.
And just to be clear, we’re not asking that these companies completely abandon any plan they have to survive in this company’s economy, after all they’re businesses and businesses need to make money. But a desperate grab for more profit in a time where restraint and a general spirit of camaraderie will benefit you in the long run, is just a bad look and terrible implementation from a company on any scale really. If these companies saw profit in such a decision, they would make internet access more affordable, trust us on that. They’re apparently just too short-sighted to do that, and it seems until they gain a new lease on sight, we’ll just have to weather the storms the coronavirus causes alongside the storms of getting good data rates.