Internet for you, you .. but not you
I woke up on the 28th of January, 2011 to find my cell phone with no network coverage. Mind you that this was anticipated, since the internet was blocked off in Egypt the night before, and SMS services were suspended; all part of cheap tactics used by a weak regime afraid of modern day communication. But I was not alone, all of Egypt was brought back to the dark ages. Days pass by and what started as an uprising turned into a revolution despite all oppressive means used by a tyrant regime. Realizing that communication blockage is taking its toll on the economy more than it is debilitating the protesters, the government had to reactivate the services.
On the 2nd of February, 2011 everyone around me was emailing, tweeting and using the web on their cell phones, except for me. First, I thought it had something to do with my phone, so I started fiddling around with my battery, resetting the phone and restarting it around 10 times, yet I still got no internet access or blackberry service. I started suspecting it had something to do with my sim card, so I inserted another sim in my phone and ‘voila’ it was working fine. Unsuspecting, I called Etisalat customer support line to register my phone to the network thinking that this would solve my problem. To my surprise the operator told me that the blackberry network was undergoing maintenance and upgrade, so service would remain suspended in some devices and my phone was apparently one the affected devices. This made no sense to me whatsoever, since a phone next to me registered with the same network had full coverage. This is when I asked the operator if this was location or serial specific, and I received the most technically inapt answer ever: “No, Madame. It is random”. Being the skeptical I am, I thanked the operator and hung up. Immediately after hanging up I called a dear friend of mine, who holds a high managerial post in the field of telecommunications, to ask about the validity of the operator’s argument. To tone his words down, he described their reasoning as utter nonsense. Being preoccupied with the protests I thought I would wait a couple of days in hope that the service would get automatically reactivated.
Oh, did I turn out to be gullible. Two days pass and my phone was as dead as a cucumber. So, I picked up the phone and gave the customer service center another call; same conversation repeated itself word for word. I had a feeling that the blockage was selective, but I just did not want to give in to my conspiracy theory. However, after this last call, I could not help but suspect my service suspension to be intentional and not random. I slept on it to give myself and the network a chance to resolve any issues. I was filled with little but present optimism that my service would be back the next day.
The next day came and my phone, yes you guessed it, still dead. My patience started to run low, because I have the right as a customer to know why I am not receiving the service I am paying for. Etisalat was underestimating my mental capacities with its false allegations about network maintenance randomly affecting customers. Thus, I called the customer service center again, and we went through the same conversation word for word and sentence for sentence. However, I was told this time that my services would be reinstated after forty eight hours, yet when due date came I still had no services on my phone. Naturally, I called the customer service center again and demanded for a valid explanation as to why I am denied my internet and blackberry services. It took them three phone calls and three different customer service representatives before I completely lost it and started yelling and demanding to talk to someone from management. One and a half hours after my tantrum, I received a call from a manager at Etisalat, who was again trying to sell me the idea of randomness. I was very firm and insisted on getting a logical and technically correct justification for the suspension of my services. This is when he went silent and thereafter surprised me by saying: “Off the record, you have been blocked by the regulator and we have no say as to when your services will be reactivated”.
I am still, as I am ending this note, denied my right to communicate freely.