Data Cap Removal a Mis-Timed PR Stunt

I never thought I’d be criticising a telecommunications company for reducing its prices, but Spark’s and others’ decision to lead the industry into removing data caps yesterday feels like an opportunistic public relations stunt that will bite in the backside the very people it purports to help.

Right now, with tens of thousands of extra Kiwis suddenly working from home and masses of school students likely to follow suit, its the very last things our telecommunications sector needs. The outcome for telcos will be a surge in customer churn, added pressure on bandwidth, and a revenue squeeze.

Instead the focus needs to be on two imperatives. First, shoring up the capacity of the industry to manage an unprecedented surge in load. Second, finding ways that kids who don’t have broadband for economic or technical reasons can be connected rapidly in anticipation of school closures at some stage.

People suddenly working from home will in general be well capable of upgrading to unlimited plans. Even if their employers don’t cover any upgrade, the saving in the cost of getting to work will for most be way bigger than the extra cost.

Likewise, if schools close savings such as the cost of school buses should enable some contribution to home connectivity costs for parents in need.

Right now, scarce connectivity needs to be directed to where there will be the most community good, not to the compulsive gamers and Netflix addicts.

Its time for the marketing people in the industry to take a deep breath and think about ways they can really help the national cause. No more cheap PR jobs please!

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