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Thursday, 28 February 2008


Can it get any worse? I doubt it.

What am I talking about? I am talking about my cities incumbent ISP. Karoo.

They claim some 72,000 ADSL connected households. In a city of some 266,000 people who live in some 140,000 houses that 72,000 figure looks good as it means that approximately half the households within the city are ADSL connected. And that is where the problems begin.

Karoo "Traffic Management" setup not only traffic shapes Internet facing traffic but also internal traffic that never leaves the local loop. Why do they do this? Simply to keep costs down. While local loop traffic does not cost anywhere close to the cost to them for external traffic it still costs a lot and with rising energy cost that cost is rising with those.

As more and more households enjoy the joys of an ADSL connection the traffic shaping aspect of the Karoo service offering is really starting to bite. In that all traffic, local loop or external, is being slowed down to 'cope' with the additional traffic. Why is this? Well, consider the following.

There are some 9 active exchanges that serve a city that is 6 miles across from East to West and some 4.5 miles across from North to South. Above and below ground there are thousands of miles of cabling connecting houses and businesses via exchanges with the end point known as Telephone House all over the city. As the city has expanded no more active exchange cabinets were added. Instead KC (Kingston Communications (KCom)) the telephone company who own Karoo added inactive cabinets. This means that houses connected via these inactive cabinets suffer further slowdowns on their ADSL connections as often these cabinets sync their connections at a much slower rate than those connected via an active cabinet.

Due in part to design limitations over the years and due in part to council imposed limitations some connections that have direct line of sight of an active exchange of, say, 1 mile can often have cable lengths of 2 or 3 times that. Those unlucky enough to be on an inactive exchange have an even worse deal. They not only have cable lengths of 1 mile from their houses to the inactive exchange to transverse but also the cable length from the inactive cabinet to the nearest active cabinet which could mean additional cable lengths of 2 or 3 miles!

All this mention of cable lengths and active and inactive cabinets is to show you why the people of this city suffer from poor ADSL connections. Sure they may sync at good rates but the sync rate is not worth a damn if the throughput is poor and it is poor for the reasons laid before you above.

Now, beyond that we have Karoo. Karoo consists of several departments seemingly related to each other. I say seemingly as in reality they bare no relation to each other at all. Of course this is not true nor correct but if you have ever dealt with Karoo you will understand why I said that. As examples that qualify those comments consider the following.

Karoo customer service is a gallant offering that is customer facing as you would expect. In the view of many is at an all-time low for competence. They are poor, dire and generally bad. Karoo's technical people come across as self serving know nothings. If you call customer service you will find they generally know nothing of a technical nature and will often simply say "Nothing is wrong here. Check your settings." Which usually leads to whatever problem you had not going away. If by some miracle you are passed from the customer service desk to the technical support team you will usually be told "Nothing is wrong here. Check your settings." And so it goes throughout the company. No matter which department you get connected to the same mantra is offered as a solution.

If you email customer support the whole experience is much more dire. By return you will receive a, presumably, carefully laid out, seemingly, automated message which in essence says "Nothing is wrong here. Check your settings." Overall the feeling one gets from every department is "You have nowhere else to go so we don't care about any problem you may or may not have." A certain feeling of we are alright Jack. A company that has no opposition is a company the exudes misplaced self confidence.

Technically, Karoo are left with what is most definitely second class expertise. While they may have top class expertise in the national or international space they leave their home base, the base from which they grew and made, and still make, all their profits, with what is left. This is evident on several levels from how they connect their customers to how they use available bandwidth. I.E. Poorly in both cases.

They receive so much negative feedback from their home based customers they felt the need to refute this on this web page. Some of the refuted feedback where laughable at best. They said:

"We do care about our customers and we are passionate about providing you with the best possible service.
We do not take your custom for granted and take all feedback seriously."

If they did not take our custom for granted how come we customers get fed bullshit time and time again?

"Whilst we truly believe our Karoo services provide good value, we are not

While they may truly believe their Karoo services provide good value everyone else believes those services are massively overpriced and are so lacking in features the services should be labled Basic Internet Services.

like all UK service providers, are increasing investment in our network to keep up with the demands of our

The investment includes adding yet more telephone lines into their customer service department to better meet the sheer amount of people ringing up to complaint about the service yet again.

It is so easy to refute all of that web pages content. Simply by talking with real people that use the services karoo offer. Those very people that forced the company to write that text in the first place. They will tell you that our own "local company, with local
people, providing services to local customers" is at its heart a company that does not give a toss about its customers. Does not give a toss if the Internet services they provide are good or bad. Does not give a toss at all about what their customers say about them.

The myth of a modern day company caring one iota about their customers or what their customers say is exactly that. A myth.

So, a final word on traffic management, or more accurately traffic shaping. This done purely because they lack bandwidth on the local loop. The copper pipes that permeate the city cost Karoo money to keep live so they employ traffic shaping inside the local loop to keep costs down. Beyond Karoo's servers they have more than enough bandwidth to cope so why do they traffic shape at all? As mentioned earlier it all comes down to cost. And as Karoo, like all companies, are profit driven they want the cost to them to be as low as possible so, they employ the use of traffic shaping to keep these costs down.

Any other reason is simply a lie.

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