Cut-price ISP Dodo had some exciting news yesterday: free ADSL2+ broadband! Being jaded sceptics though, we had to ask: what's the catch?
|Should Dodo go the way of the dodo?
Cut-price ISP Dodo had some exciting news yesterday: free ADSL2+ broadband
The press announcement simply mentioned that customers would need to switch their home phone over to Dodo and the only cost would be a $32.90 line rental fee.
Sounds pretty good, we thought. Everyone has to pay a line rental fee anyway and most of us are being reamed to the tune of about $30 a month.
"The Australian public has been charged excessive fees for high speed internet access for too long and Dodo is putting an end to this," said Dodo's managing director in a statement.
"The US and UK have had free broadband services available for the last couple of years."
But then we looked at the terms and conditions of the offer. Like many "free" deals, there is a nasty sting in the tail (several actually.)
The "free" broadband offer only includes 150MB of usage. That's long enough for -- get this -- 50 seconds of downloads at full ADSL2+ speed.
After the initial 150MB, downloads are charged at $0.18 per megabyte. The next 150MB will cost you $27.00.
Even worse, the 150MB you do get "free" is "split 50% between 9am and 1am and 50% between 1am and 9am". So you only get 75MB of usage during waking hours before the chargeable megabytes kick in.
In its defence, Dodo has capped the total price of its "free" broadband at $29.95 a month, so at least, unlike Telstra BigPond's $29.95 plan, customers are not exposed to bills that potentially run into thousands of dollars in excess usage charges.
However, Dodo also pins the connection speed right down to the near-dialup speed of 64Kbit/s after you use your initial 150MB, so for the most part, you'll be using glorified dialup and paying through the nose to do it.
I'm evidently not the only person who's unhappy with the way Dodo is presenting its broadband deals to the market.
In the last Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman report (27 March 2007), Dodo is reported as having attracted 4,378 complaints from consumers -- nearly four times as many as OptusNet at 1,030 and nearly twice as many as Telstra BigPond at 2,330. And that was only in the three month period leading up to 31st December 2006.
News of Dodo's customer service woes have started appearing in the mainstream media. Melbourne newspaper The Age wrote recently: "this internet service provider has a clear record of woeful customer service".
One Dodo customer was reportedly forced to cancel his credit card to stop Dodo billing him for a cancelled service, because he was literally unable to contact Dodo's customer service after dozens of engaged signals and unanswered emails.
In fact, at the time, The Age couldn't even contact the company, which has since engaged a PR Agency to paint the company in a more positive light.
Broadband community Whirlpool.net.au's annual survey of satisfaction with broadband providers also showed massive anger towards Dodo in the 2006 survey.
The company scored worst on customer service, with 53% of people saying they had to wait 20 minutes or longer to get a person on the phone (comparable only to another ISP, Wild, which has since gone into administration.)
Furthermore, 61.5% of people surveyed said Dodo's customer service was "below average" or "awful". 45% of people said they'd previously left Dodo because of poor customer service, while 32% said it was because of poor network reliability.
The Whirlpool Dodo forum is overflowing with discussion threads like "I got out of Dodo - thanks for the help" and "can I block Dodo from my bank?"