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     Volume 4 Issue 11 | September 3 , 2004 |

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Lost in Connection

Ruzan Sarwar

Looking outside the house, wires of every size, shape, colour and genre are visible. They hang above ground, run underground or simply lie on the ground (in the case of this ever-developing country). One of these innumerable wires connects the telephone line to a switchboard. It is impossible to tell just by looking that this single, innocent looking wire allows countless problems to arise. Maybe the problem is not just with the wire but with everything that it touches. Landlines are a menace to this country.

The invention of the telephone is no doubt,an amazing one. Unfortunately, Alexander Graham Bell's brilliant concept, meant to lessen communication troubles, is not one that has been fully appreciated by the people who run Bangladesh's TNT lines.

The hassles that come with trying to obtain a landline are endless. First of all, there is the bakshish needed to simply get the process started. Then comes the waiting. Though it seems endless, it is not idle for during this waiting period comes the scurrying around, trying to find someone who could help. Connections, so to speak. Of course, most of these "connections" have to be given a little present as well (something preferably of the monetary variety).

Once that extra-special connection has procured you the phone line, you'd think everything would fall into the "happily ever after" category. Wrong. Next comes maintenance. Landlines have frequent problems that need correcting, along the lines of a severed wire that allows floodwaters to invade the line or an errant rat chewing off bits of it. The customer has to pay first and then wait for the lines to be fixed. There are even times where one has to pay in order to get the telephone bill!

There is no difficulty in seeing that sorting through such matters is bound to raise any person's blood pressure. So what is a possible, somewhat doable solution to an incessantly recurring aggravation? Bangladesh's landlines are implemented and monitored by the government. The government (whichever party is ruling at the moment) has a monopoly over every aspect: the rates, the exchanges, and the efficiency. With no other company there to challenge the landline business, the employees are free to do whatever they wish, with no fear of repercussions. The only way to rectify this is to privatise the sector. No one has heard of this type of nonsense going on with cell phones ever since an initial monopolisation left customers unsatisfied. The reason is purely because the cell phone companies have competition and live with the constant insecurity that customers will switch to another company if they are not kept satisfied. The TNT does not have any such fear.

Most developed countries have privatised landline companies, having realised the need for them. Now, even Latin America intends to have their telecommunications TNT sector privatised. It is high time for Bangladesh to do the same.



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