PCCW: Stuck in the '90s?

First published: 07th December 2016

I use PCCW's nowTV service. Recently, they sent me a letter informing me that they had extended their fibre network to my building and offering me a free upgrade to a fibre connection, which can support 4K UHD video and also offering a new set-top box, six months free 200Mbps internet connection and 3 months free Netflix service.

I'm using a different internet provider at the moment, only a 100Mbps connection, so why not try this 100% faster connection? Perhaps I could set up load balancing / failover for 6 months, and then decide on whether to drop one service or continue with both...

I had some questions about the service, and what would happen at the end of the free period, but their Customer Service Hotline was able to answer those. Then we started the registration process for free internet service, "and you need to agree to our Terms and Conditions, they're on our website". OK, I'll take a look at that, what the HELL? The Terms and Conditions are only one A4 page, but just look at that font size! I asked the PCCW representative to wait while I read them, well, they suddenly decided to demand that I agree to these to sign up. It took me some time. In fact, it took me a lot of time, so much time that the PCCW representative was concerned that the call would go over their 15 minute limit. It is almost as if PCCW expects their customers to agree to their Terms and Conditions without reading them. Why did it take me so long to read? Am I a slow reader? I would claim that the document was difficult to read and understand. Many style guides recommend short sentences for readability. The UK Government explains, Sentence length: why 25 words is our limit. Nirmaldasan reports that press associations in the USA regard sentences of 29 words or more as very difficult. The first sentence in section 2 of PCCW's Terms and Conditions is 445 words long. Four Hundred and Forty Five words in one sentence? How difficult is that to understand?

Tucked into the middle of that sentence was the condition that I must not store or upload anything that could be used for an "improper purpose". I asked the PCCW representative what an improper purpose was, but got not explanation.

I'm rather glad that I read all the way through because it turns out that my idea of using the PCCW internet service to connect my home network to the internet actually breaks the rules. In the first paragraph of section 4 (a mere 250 words long), it says, "(ix) not to connect a Service Cable and/or a Service Provisioning Equipment to more than one computer and/or to any device unless such connection or device is expressly authorised in writing or provided by us;". So, I asked the PCCW Representative to provide their written authorisation, but apparently this was not possible.

Section 6 goes further, they demand that they be authorised to reconfigure my personal computer and install hardware and software, and disable any other LAN card and remove any defective network interface card, including an ATM25 card. ATM25 was considered obsolete in 2001. They also further clarify that their connection must not be shared (directly or indirectly) to any other LAN or server. What is a server, and how can you distinguish it from a personal computer that happens to be listening on a TCP port?

I'm struggling to understand, PCCW is offering a 200Mbps connection for a single personal computer that is not for commercial purposes and is not a server. What can you do on a PC that requires that bandwidth? Even UHD video only requires 25Mbps. Does this mean that, although the connection to your PC is rated at 200Mbps, PCCW's network cannot support that in general? Does their bandwidth figure mean anything?

The PCCW Representative was helpful and informed me that if I didn't register today, this was the last day of their free offer. Actually, I'm being dishonest. I should say that the PCCW Representative employed a high-pressure sales technique to induce fear of loss of opportunity with the objective of forcing me to agree to unreasonable terms and conditions.

I decided not to accept the free internet offer. What use is an internet service that I cannot connect to my home network? No matter, I still have the 100Mbps connection from PCCW's competitor. I can also still enjoy the fibre upgrade for nowTV to 4K UHD video, right? Wrong! Another PCCW representative informed me that I could only have the fibre upgrade if I accept the internet offer. I wonder if they would fine me for not using the Netflix service enough?

I did ask for a copy of the recording they made of our phone conversation, well, I do regard that as my personal data. They'll get back to me on that. I also told them that I might be publishing a blog article about this.

If anyone from PCCW is reading this, Hello! I will, of course, correct any factual errors that might have crept in, and, if you respond to this, I may share your response here. I am wondering how this incident fits in with your marketing plans. Presumably, you have recently laid fibre to my building and you want to encourage as many of the households as you can to use your new bandwidth. Perhaps there is also some convenience in having your engineers pull fibre into each flat in a specific period. Therefore, you designed this marketing campaign to upgrade your customer's connections, and extend their service plans, but your campaign had the opposite effect with me, mainly because your Terms and Conditions appear to be written for conditions 20 years ago. Even then, I had multiple computers at home on a network, though that was probably not common. Now, households with multiple computers (desktops, laptops, smartphones, IoT devices) are the norm. Then, it might be expected that home users would need assistance with installing and configuring an ethernet card and TCP/IP software, now ethernet or WiFi is standard, and configuration is automatic.

So, PCCW, which decade are you in?