My Agony with Digitel’s Internet Service (and why there’s nothing else)

My Globe Tattoo problems were agonizing for me… it was a tale all its own.   But it’s made more poignant by the even bigger, continuing, epic tragedy that is our Digitel DSL…

UPDATE: We’ve been transferred to PLDT, and Digitel is now nothing more than a bad memory (though it still tried to haunt us).  Anyway, this story is still worth telling as a cautionary tale for those still under Digitel subscription.

Two years ago I wrote a scathing review of Globe’s Tattoo, particularly the inconsistent and slow speeds, the frequent disconnections, and—with the almost unanimous assent of the readers—the “un-Fair Usage Policy” which caps the download speed to below the advertised rate.   The official line would say maybe to “control the bandwidth” and regulate usage.   Maybe a more honest answer (ask Customer Service; maybe they’ll say it) is that they expect to curtail Illegal Downloading and Piracy.  Piracy, after all, uses gigabytes of downloads, more than what the average non-downloading user would use.  That doesn’t take into account the number of legal, legitimated downloads that are also gigabyte in usage.  Did I fail to mention that streaming is also usage?

Anyway, there’s still hot debate in that article about how Globe is screwing you over, etc.   The comments are alive with discussion.  Then, one “helpful” commenter answered: “Get DSL. Period.”  While I answered why that was not in the cards, I think it’s appropriate for me to give a more detailed answer.

I live in the “boondocks”.  By that, I mean I live in a far-remote place that major telecom networks do not want to reach, or think is not worth the time.   Okay, maybe not that remote—Meycauayan in Bulacan, after all, is a city.   But telecom networks just didn’t want to bother with us.

Long before I was introduced to Globe Tattoo, and long before Smart Bro, there was the provincial network telecom provider Digitel.  Now, Digitel was one of the many telecom networks that didn’t want to bother connecting us with a decent landline.   My mother applied to have a line connected, but months passed without a decent response from the company (this would be a pattern for them, I’d soon find out).   It was only because she was in the government, that when she wrote personally to Digitel—complete with endorsement—that Digitel got energized to install a connection.   Yes, Digitel needed someone with connections to motivate it to do anything.

So anyway, Digitel was used.  Later, after dabbling with Dial-up (remember those Nitro prepaid cards?), we finally went to the Digitel center to have DSL Internet installed.  At the time, we chose the “Internet” option, because we weren’t “Gaming” in our PC–that time, it meant 512 kbps against “Gaming”s 1mbps.   We would suffer with this lack of hindsight throughout our days in Digitel.

Installation took weeks, and we had to call insistently to have it installed.  When it did we enjoyed the first few months of it.

Then came the first serious problem.   Remember those four lights in the modem?  Power, DSL, Internet, and Landline?  With us, the lights to the Power and Landline were off, but not the DSL and Internet lights.   There were previous problems that pointed to the third light going off, but that was mainly connection problems.  But the second light, we were sure it was a problem with the modem.

So we phoned it in.  We got a reply that they’ll forward the problem and fix it.   It wasn’t fixed, because it was the modem that needed replacing.  So we called again, and again they said they’d investigate.  It became a cycle.  It lasted days, then weeks, then months.  I don’t remember how long it took, but by that time we had begun to be introduced to Smart Bro, then in sheer frustration to an attempt to connect to BayanTel.

After so many months, someone came, and fixed the phone (which had problems of its own).

Finally as the bills came in, we sent a letter ultimatum which said that we wouldn’t pay a single peso without someone fixing the Internet.   Then another month and finally someone came to first adjust the cable location, the phone location, and the connection.  Then, when all seemed not working, they actually checked the modem. Lo and behold, they “suddenly discovered it was the modem”, and replaced it.  The problem magically disappeared.

This happened many years ago, maybe in the later 2000s, since I spent much of the early part in a boarding house.   This may have happened then, but why do I still remember?  Because Digitel never learned from this, and rely on their IT “who know better.”

Intermittent, casual problems continued.  Loss of Internet connection due to rain, blackouts.  At one time, they couldn’t fix the problem  with the connection, then found that because they changed the Internet login details (that was much later).

Another major problem came with a loss of Dial Tone and Internet.  Again we called (from payphones, and back then from a landline that still existed).  By that time we mulled over disconnecting from Digitel, due to its constant problems and its 512kbps speed.   But upgrading and disconnecting meant going directly to their Digitel Business Center, which were hundreds of miles away.    Did I mention that we lived in Meycauayan?  The Marilao business center had then closed, and we were given the choice to go to Sta. Maria, or to Malolos.   Those were far-away places that were problematic to commute to.  We deferred, we delayed, finally we didn’t bother.

After months of the Internet problem, came the answer: some guy had stolen a Digitel cable from across the street.  This wasn’t Digitel, it was a form of sabotage.  To this day I don’t know if it was simply lucrative to get cable from the posts, or it was a form of personal sabotage.   The important thing was it wasn’t completely Digitel’s fault.

So came the time when Digitel frequently shut down Internet because once again of rains and blackouts.  Another problem came up.  Did you know that we were almost disconnected because of a lack of payment for three months, when we paid constantly to them?  It seemed they were sending the payment to another business center—Laguna, of all places—and they weren’t getting the payment.  That continued, them not registering the payment we make, the oh-so-ever present danger of overpaying.  They were of course the ones to benefit.

I was finally introduced in the latter part of the 2000s to Globe Tattoo.  My brother from the government received a courtesy stick with a GI-Joe artwork on it.   It was fast, it was a good alternative to Digitel.   Then of course, we knew what happened afterwards.

Moving on.  We used Tattoo for the speeds we needed—it was fast when it needed to be fast, faster than Digitel 47kbps speeds (I approximated—I remember it well).

So came finally the latest in our agony with Digitel.  The phone’s Dial Tone died, taking the Internet with it.   We phoned, they said they’d look into it.  Days stretched into weeks.  Finally someone fixed the phone—but not the Internet.  Ingrained in my mind the memories of them fixing the wrong thing years ago.   More weeks passed… the Internet returned… then after a week shut off again.   Meanwhile the bill kept coming and coming, and agents calling to press me to pay.  Mum’s the word, of course, with fixing.   They keep saying they’d have it “forwarded/endorsed to Technical support”.

It has been three months.   I’ve had a long history with this Phone Company, recently acquired by PLDT but gaining none of its efficiency.  They mentioned migrating us to the PLDT line, but that was two years ago.  Now we only wanted Internet service they weren’t giving, and the justice of not having to pay for the non-service.

So now, that is my Digitel problem.  And it’s not “Get DSL, period.”   No telecom company, as I said, would bother connecting to Meycauayan.   Bayantel was centered in Manila.  PLDT just “didn’t have the architecture” to connect to us… the same “lack of architecture” Digitel didn’t have until a “government endorsement” motivated them to have.  Globe—oh God, Globe—approached us once of Globelines.. I was unsure because of my experience with them but when I finally got the chance to apply (it was DSL, after all), they had finally exhausted their “spots” (vacancies, I guess).  They referred us to their Broadband services, as did PLDT.   Globe Tattoo and Smart Bro were broadband, too.  As did my Globe Pocket Wifi, which they offered in 2012.  While the pocket wifi was fast when it needed to, I had to place it on the window to make it fast (kind of like what I did in the Tattoo).   It was fast some times… sometimes it just didn’t connect.  The percentage of that happening? 60-40.

What is the whole point of this?  Explaining my DSL problem.  Why I suffer from the torture of the broadband, and the Hell of non-DSL.  And there just isn’t any alternative.  I’m actually surprised that we’re still Digitel, since technically that company shouldn’t exist anymore (or maybe I’m not at all knowledgeable about the technicalities of a takeover).

I hope my readers do not suffer the same fate—then again, we’re probably the last breed of Digitel users.  Recently, I just received their bill for another month of their non-service.   There’s nowhere to turn to–not the intransingent Customer Service, not the ever-elusive Tech Support, not the inaccessible Management, and certainly not the Business Centers that recently closed.

I’m mulling over my next action, but it’s like a sadistic cycle that I can’t seem to escape.  No choice but to move forward, to the laughter of the devils.

Update 8-18-2014: Barely a few days after writing this I learn that: Globe does not even have broadband facilities with our area.  So, not even Wimax or LTE.   The sales people referred me to… *shudder*… the Pocket Wifi.  I really have no choice but to bear the erratic connection of Globe postpaid.

Oh, and the DSL has gone from worse to, well, worse (not worst… not yet): now there is absolutely no Internet, and the modem they provided’s busted.  I’m basically being asked to pay for a dead connection.

Update 9-10-2014: Five days after filing a complaint with the NTC and the emailing of NTC’s notice to Digitel, we now have a working DSL and a migrated line.   Rebate is the only remaining issue… though it will be contentious.  So now the Internet has returned.  Hmmph.   I’m keeping my Globe Wifi, just in case it acts up again.  At least we’re not officially Digitel anymore.

Update: 9-15-2014: So they fixed it after an NTC letter and three months.  Do you know how much they reimbursed for those 3 months? 1400.  Three Plan 999 months later, they give me a less than 50% rebate.  And for approval.  Wow, utang na loob pa naming bigyan kami ng rebate.   That is so corporate.

A long update 9/19/2014: So Digitel had no intention whatsoever of fixing our Internet connection.  All those three months that they mentioned they were migrating the line while fixing the phone, well, after the NTC finally forced them into fixing the line, they did not migrate the line anyway.   All those three months of excuses about migrating the phone line, and it wasn’t even migrated.   Digitel planned to leave us hanging for an indefinite period while–get this–they expected us to pay dilligently what we “owed” them.   That’s right: “shut up and pay me”.

And just like our Internet connection, our rebate application is uncertain.   Digitel won’t even be decent enough to give us compensation for the frustrating disservice they gave us.   It is all one giant effort to screw us over.    Their customers; clients in a decrepit, corporate organization that doesn’t care about quality service, just the money.  And aaaalways the money.

Aaaand they found a creative way to screw us over:   Browsing speeds are normal.  Streaming is normal.  Download speed?  Doesn’t exist.  Downloads are not allowed.  Nada.  Never.  Not in a million years.  Cold day in hell.  When pigs fly.   I’m wondering if new management also gave them a Fair Use Policy.

Post-Mortem:  For those reading this article on October 2015, the problem has resolved itself, making this whole article moot.   PLDT has since transferred our subscription to them, and the Digitel horrors are over.  In light of this, a post-mortem is in order.

While Digitel is the source of so much heartache, we cannot deny that in the early years of 2000 it was our primary source of Internet.   We had experience with Smart Bro, and while later we had experience with Globe Tattoo, it was, the broadband had varying levels of functionality, and oftentimes did not work.   Our experience with Digitel has been bittersweet, punctuated by bouts of prolonged periods of no Internet service.

And this article was written in the last days of Digitel service.  We received mail before, informing us that with the acquisition of Digitel by PLDT, we were going to be migrated.  The migration lasted for years, and where Digitel once cared for providing service and assistance when that service was halted, in the last months of its life we felt that Digitel just didn’t care anymore.  Its main offices shut down, PLDT did not assume complete responsibility, and we were left with a contact service that while promising quick response was still subject to the actions of the main office.   With much of Digitel disbanded (at least, I thought so), Digitel just didn’t care anymore.

But we should not let the bitter disregard the sweet.  When Digitel worked, it gave us interconnectivity with the world.  It provided stark contrast from the Dial-Up we suffered, and the inconsistency of Broadband service.   With the nightmare of the last days gone past, Digitel deserves its due.

And that is my final, and (again), bittersweet words for Digitel.  May you fade into oblivion with luster.