Local ADSL connectivity is prohibitively expensive and costs could be significantly cheaper, despite Telkom's claims to the contrary.

This is according to Rudolph Muller, founder of the MyADSL forum, which sparked the original wave of complaints regarding Telkom's ADSL offering.

Muller today addressed the council of the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) hearing on what he described as the exploitative costs imposed by the incumbent operator, and rejected some of Telkom's claims that its service is significantly improved.

The hearing was organised after hundreds of complaints were lodged against Telkom's ADSL service – mainly regarding cost and service quality – and Muller called for ICASA to intervene.

“The reason why we are here today is that Telkom does not want to communicate with us and will not respond to any of our complaints. We want clarification on what they are doing to fix problems, but all they have done so far is clarify how they are messing up the service.

“Bandwidth costs are so high in SA that there must be a problem. Why are they nowhere near as high internationally?” Muller asks.

“Costs can be dropped. It can be done – don't be fooled into thinking otherwise. Unfortunately, Telkom sits in the other corner, with many highly compensated technicians – paid for by us – trying to ensure they do not have to provide consumers with the service we want.”

Muller says a drastic ADSL cost reduction can be achieved by simply removing the R599 monthly connectivity rental charge, which he describes as ‘anticompetitive' behaviour on behalf of Telkom.

“Over 70% of the total ADSL cost is the connectivity rental. Please note that this rental and the ADSL line rental refer to the same thing. It's a scheme set up by Telkom to make more money.”

Muller says consumers should only have to pay a once-off installation fee for the port card, and compares the monthly fee to paying R500 to install your radio, and then having to continue paying that every month.

Telkom says it is incurring a loss on the access portion, and this is significant, because they are actually making a profit on it after the first month, Muller says.

“If they were to leave out the connectivity rental – just that – it will help balance things out. It's the basic point, and I think the people speak with one voice on this. All it does is lift prices to unaffordable levels, prevents uptake, and is anticompetitive behaviour.

“Telkom proudly announced that they have not increased bandwidth prices for some time, but these costs have actually dropped significantly. So all they are actually saying is ‘yes, we are ripping you off'.”

Telkom announced yesterday that its ADSL service was significantly improved, adding that a survey showed 88% of its users were happy with it, but Muller says this seems unlikely. “I for one was never contacted for that survey, who were the people queried?”

Muller then cited an independent poll on the Internet, which asked whether ADSL customers were satisfied with the service. Of the 721 votes, 83% said no.

“We also surveyed people on whether they thought the pricing model was acceptable, to which over 90% of respondents said no.”

He then accused Telkom of providing misinformation regarding the implementation of a ‘cap' at yesterday's meeting. “They allege that it is the Internet service providers that are the one's enforcing it, when in fact it is they who choose whether or not to do so.”

Muller also slammed Telkom's earlier statement that ADSL was never designed for ‘bandwidth hogs.'

“This statement is simply ridiculous. ADSL was developed to allow high download rates. It should be broadband intensive. Overseas people would laugh at our local cap of 3 gigabytes – they could exceed that in a couple of days.”