Open letter to iBurst

18 July 2009

Further anger and thoughts on iBurst…

I wrote the following post in response to a comment at MyBroadBand (formerly MyADSL), specifically to address the commentator’s points that iBurst is under new management, that new management unfortunately has to bear the brunt of past customers’ ire. Etc.

The new CEO of iBurst, Jannie van Zyl, is a long-time member there, but has now a new profile/account under his real name and as iBurst CEO. As I make clear, my irritation is not with the new CEO, although some of his responses to me, I must say, have been woefully inadequate. [See this post; top right-hand corner links to the thread.]

Readers can read the post under discussion here now and which follows in the context of its own thread. I duplicate it here to broaden its readership.

However, there seems to be a coterie, if not cabal, of MBB members who, because of a historical forum relationship, seem to fawn over Van Zyl and who, in seemingly wanting to cover for him, disregard the substantive accusations I make against iBurst. Their focus is on looking to the future and not dwelling on negativity. Noble intentions. But my point is exactly that the history of iBurst, as well as the iBurst that existed on 16 July 2009, have disallowed me, and also hundreds and hundreds of other people, to forget the bad history. Again, a story thought long ago ended, resurrected. So, it’s ridiculously child-like to insist on guff such as ‘looking to the future’. I was in my own, post-iBurst future. The present iBurst returned me to the past.

I have no idea of what the personal relationships between authorities at MyBroadBand and representatives of Iburst may be behind the scenes. I understand that there is an economic relationship, primarily because of advertising on MyBroadBand. My posts on there about iBurst have been vitriolic (but with fair reason). MyBroadBand has terms of use that include subjective terms by which posts may be removed. In short, another reason for duplicating the post here is that I worry that posts may disappear from MyBroadBand’s forums.

To the post then:

True [name of commentator to whom I respond]. I was thinking about it this morning. It’s clear, also, that both Shaun and Jannie Van Zyl are liked here on [MBB]. I have no problem with Shaun (nor Jannie), especially since I am more and more certain that it was Shaun who, in 2006, listened to my appeal and gave me the refund. Then already people knew that he was the go-to guy around here. I was then using a pseudonym here, which I can’t remember (!), and I am sure there’s a post where I ask around for a telephone number or something that would lead me to calling him.

And, as you say, it is unfortunate that Jannie, as new CEO, has to bear or does bear the brunt of past customers’ irritation and anger; so I was thinking that it is unfortunate that it seems that he is a target of my anger.

So let me say this first, categorically: I remain entirely pissed off with the way my story has gone, and I remain pissed off that that story is just one story in an overwhelming plethora of similar stories, pointing to what we all know is (I won’t say has been) accounting incompetence on an absurd scale. So, I am pissed of not because my story is an individual oddity; I am pissed off because, on the evidence of ongoing wide-scale incompetence, an old story has quite unsuspectingly appeared on my blissful horizon. As I said before: a bad break-up has, 3 years later, been replayed, for the second time, when you thought the first replay, 2 years after the bad break up, was definitely the last replay. It was on VHS, an old, obsolete format, that first replay. But lo and behold, they’ve transferred it to Blue-ray or whatever new format and here they are, forcing you to watch another replay. No, to re-live it.

But, categorically, I am pissed off with the iBurst that existed on 16 July 2009. Categorically, I am pissed with a corporation whose ridiculously bad habits had, in my experience, been in existence since 2006, and, based on reportage all over the net, here and elsewhere, had existed prior to that. I am pissed off because those bad habits touched me, again, and when I had long ago exorcised its toxins (how many times do I have to make this point?).

Excuse my Tagalog, and forgive my crude sexism, but it grates my tits (yes it does, and it shocks me that I am capable of using this phrase, which I have never used before) that this all happens then in a company which up until now, in the broader public’s eye, had been run by a boss who had the absolutely naive but perverted gumption to write such godawful **** (faeces) [shit censored at MBB] as Don’t Panic. Don’t panic, everything will be just super-dandy again, while, as I said, there have been an ongoing, loud gnashing of teeth among Don’t Panic’s customers. People should get that point: bosses now, like politicians, want to be celebrities, and, it seems, they don’t give a f–k [self-censored; would be censored at MBB] about how they disempower the people whose hard-earned money ultimately pay their salaries. (Buy Ricoffee!? He should go tell that to the f–king birds.[ditto])

That shows – are we surprised? – a massive, cosmological, light-year long disconnect between company boss and customers in the case of iBurst. Disconnects between big companies and customers (or big organisations and their members) are not unusual at all, but in iBurst’s case any sane person who knows and has experience of it has to admit that the disconnect is something special. And the contrast between the feel-good twaddle that company bosses enthralled to their own misguided, quasi-philosophical pretensions like to dabble in, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the anger and disempowerment their customers flounder in and of which bosses remain blissfully unaware – clearly wilfully – this contrast is a chiaroscuro that not even God, in his infinite wisdom, can have ever imagined. Night and day, black and white – these don’t come anywhere near it.

Hyperbole yes, but I tell you, even if you are bored with hearing about complaints against iBurst, look at the comments on HelloPeter. Consider the contrast between people’s disempowerment and desperation there, and the civil, joky, chummy-chummy exchanges between users and representatives of iBurst here at MyBroadBand. People who know where to look for information (like us on this forum) can gain some form of empowerment, and therefore relief, from iBurst’s incompetence. But you cannot disregard the disempowerment of people simply because they don’t know that here, on MBB, they can gain access to a helpful iBurst representative and even, of late, its new CEO.

Which leads me to these rhetorical and not original questions: Why can people not use and receive the same level of service simply from posting at iBurst’s own site? Why do you have to raise a stink at HelloPeter first? Or be part of a coterie at MBB?

So, categorically, my complaint is not against Shaun. My complaint, as I’ve indicated above, is not against the new CEO per se. But Jannie has responded to me and he is now the CEO of a company with an unfortunate history, of which I am just one individual who shares in that misfortune.

But his responses to me should be read in this context: he has been a long time member – under a different guise – at MBB. In other words, at MBB he is largely an MBB member, and not the CEO of iBurst. By this I mean that a history of his interactions here, prior to being CEO at iBurst, will govern how other people treat him and cover for him. He is, in short and in the main, among a group of buddies. That is the nature of these forums. It produces a different persona.

I am not sure whether interactions between me and Shaun, and between me and Jannie, here on this forum, is appropriately business-like (by this I mean that it is different from say, talking across a desk in an office, business-like; it’s a point about context). All in all, members here – and people who know to look here – are part of a fortunate coterie who happen to have access to two iBurst representatives and who thus can have a greater fortune in getting their problems seen to quickly. But that does not erase the larger problems for the overwhelming majority of people who have experienced and still experience problems with iBurst.

So I am not convinced that their presence here is good or is a sign that things will necessarily change at iBurst, that the disconnect will be overcome. In terms of marketing research, I’m not sure how significant the sample at MBB of exchanges between members and iBurst is. But I would venture to say that the sample at HelloPeter is a better sample about complaints. The sample here at MBB may be skewed by the relationships between people; newbies may say harsh words, but in this thread, for instance, there have been several posts covering for iBurst.

But imagine the number of people who have not heard of HelloPeter, imagine that sample. One can often judge from the HelloPeter complaints that many people are perhaps older and not quite in the loop of technology. One can then infer that there must be another group of people outside the fortunates who know or have heard of HelloPeter. That ouside group is where real marketing research should take place. MBB is not the place for research if you want to expand your business. MBB members know to look around and will drop you like a hat if needs be. In any case, there should be no need for customers to go somewhere else than a company’s primary location, brick-and-mortar or online.

That’s some marketing consulting, for free.

But, one cannot help to muse that it seems that iBurst’s business model depends on ignorance. Many complaints at HelloPeter express a big disappointment in feeling being duped; it is clear even that customers were not of the sort who might look around and do some research before they decide on the particular technology they want to use to connect. It is exactly the kind of ignorance that marketing depends on. And my analysis is that iBurst remains happy to garner users from that demographic while not caring about them once they are users locked in to whatever package.

And here I mean locked in in more than its legalistic sense. They may be on month to month, but if you have little money, switching ISP technology requires cash that for many people is a big outlay: new modem + new connection fees + waste of old connection fees + pro-rata on old modem (if the accounting works). Throw in then, double billing, time wasted, etc., and the cost, monetary and otherwise, of switching grows. Those people, the tech-ignorant, are locked in, and all they want is this new (for them) technology to work.

To reiterate the point, it seems that the business model depends more on these poor souls than on the tech-savvy – who are most probably more wallet savvy as well – on MBB. The problem of course is that it is the tech-savvy that have the more powerful voice. Engaging with the tech-savvy, keeping them satisfied means minimising negative publicity, while the tech-ignorant, who remain unheard and are the most dissatisfied, don’t even know that their experience is part of a massive blunder, and not just one individual bureaucratic error. And this point is then borne out by what goes on here at MBB.

When I joined Cybersmart, it was by word-of-mouth. I’ve never come across any of their people online in a secondary place. They don’t need to make promises. They deliver. The history of their delivery becomes their reputation, and that reputation then is their promise. People here, on the iBurst threads, may not want to hear me bandying the name Cybersmart around. But that’s my contrasting experience to my history with iBurst. Cybersmart, ironically then, is faceless but I don’t feel like I am interacting with a faceless business who leaves me disempowered; iBurst, via MBB, is not entirely faceless, but the experience has been.

I wish iBurst luck in changing, but I remain sceptical. In any event, my persistent irritation and anger has to do with my history with iBurst, and has nothing to do with the future of iBurst. If anyone I know wants to bank on the future of iBurst, I will feel compelled to raise my history with them.

———- [end of MBB post]



  1. […] anger and thoughts on iBurst If you like your kicks this way, then hold onto […]

    Pingback by More anger and thoughts on iBurst « Groundwork — 18 July 2009 @ 5:39 pm

  2. Oho, the plot thickens

    Now I know why your posts are being deleted. The key is Jannie van Zyl, none other than Vodacom3g on the forum, the untouchable who cannot be criticised or whose company cannot be criticised at all.

    Comment by Miyuki — 31 July 2009 @ 3:37 pm

  3. Well try this on for size for a forum where on can seemingly openly state your opinion without Censorship:

    Some pretty interesting info there re. RPM & Jannie van Zyl.

    Comment by NoCensorship — 5 November 2009 @ 12:58 pm

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