Some users accuse ACT Broadband of stealing electricity, company says it can’t comment
ACT broadband, or short for Atria Convergence Technology, is among one of India’s most popular internet service providers. ACT was among the top five service providers, which constituted 98.75 per cent of the total broadband subscribers at the end of August 2021, recorded by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). It was also among the top five wired broadband service providers in terms of subscriber additions with 1.95 million subscribers. But this data is not enough to show the flawed aspect of service providers and the distress it puts a consumer through. Sometimes it goes on for years, but rarely does the case come to light, as reported by a Twitter user who has been using ACT for the last few years.
It is not uncommon for internet service providers to source electricity or power to provide internet connections in the vicinity. Broadband service providers are allowed to source electricity from one subscriber and provide it to other subscribers in the vicinity. The electricity is used with permission to power the switch boxes. A look at the Indian Broadband Forum takes you through comments from subscribers who are informed about the ISP drawing electricity from their house and about the compensation.
However, when the internet service providers do not inform the subscribers that electricity is being sourced from their house to power the houses in the vicinity, it could be a case of theft and fraud.
Twitter user and photographer Madhu Menon took to Twitter, noting that ACT Fibernet had been taking electricity from his apartment to power their connections to the apartments in his building as well as a hospital near his apartment in Bangalore. “So, it seems @ACTFibernet has been taking electricity from my apartment to power their connections to all the other apartments in my building and the hospital near my house, without reimbursing me. This has cost me thousands over the years. I plan to take them to consumer court,” Menon wrote. He further wrote, “I found out because when the power went out in my apartment alone because of an electrical trip, the entire building lost access to their ACT connections. When it happened a second time, I was sure what was happening.”
Speaking to India Today Tech, he said, “A couple of months ago, there was a problem with our electric transformer as there was an electrical surge. That actually affected the wiring in my house, so there was no power at all anywhere. It took a few hours for the electrician to fix the wiring. Around the same time, my neighbours said they had no ACT connection, but they had power, so there was something wrong with the connection in the rest of the building. It was then that I thought there was something up as there is a power cable that goes from my study to power their (ACT)’s junction box.”
“ACT had promised that they would give me Rs 50 off every month, but that was nine years ago. After the outage, I thought that maybe the junction box is powering more than my house. After this incident, there was another issue with my inverter that caused a power cut in my entire house. This time, again, my neighbours had electricity but no internet connection,” he added.
Menon noted that he has three neighbours who also use the ACT broadband connection. “Whenever there is an ACT outage, we text each other to see if we can do something from our end. The second time this happened, we thought this cannot be a coincidence. The moment the power situation was fixed, our ACT connections returned for all of us, which led me to believe they were sourcing power from my house.”
After Madhu tweeted about the issue, he received a call from ACT, and they confirmed that they were actually drawing electrical power from his house to power the junction box, which had multiple connections.
“They were supposed to pay me Rs 50 off every month for the power they are drawing up from my house plus 18 per cent GST, which comes to Rs 59. It looks like a small amount for one month, and I am not really worried about it, but I have been an ACT customer since 2012, which is nine years, and if you add the amount up for all those months, it comes down to about Rs 6300.”
Madhu did not notice much of a difference in the bill as it was around Rs 60 per month, but he noted that it adds up over the years and that mostly it is a matter of principle. “If they are drawing electricity, they are supposed to give me the deduction and other people on Twitter have confirmed that they get Rs 50 deducted from their bills.
ACT broadband told Madhu that they would compensate him for the last six months of this financial year as a “special case.” “I told them that I have been paying for the electricity for all these years from my pocket. So, they have taken Rs 6300 and are offering to return Rs 360 only. Now, that sounds a lot like theft to me,” Madhu said.
Several Twitter users came forward speaking of similar instances. India Today Tech reached out to ACT to get a better picture on the matter but did not receive a reply. We also spoke to technicians whom customers reached out for direct complaints, but they said they were unaware of the issue. Another ACT employee, seemingly a techie, was also apprehensive about sharing the details of the company and said that each employee is given an ACT SIM card which would make it risky for him to speak further.
“They could have compensated by not charging me for my internet connection for the next three to four months, and it would not have cost them much, but they are being stubborn about it,” Madhu said. “They have said that going forward, they will give me the discount to source power from my house but will not return my money for all the years I have been using the service.”
Madhu had also tweeted about power being drawn from his house to a nearby hospital. “I don’t know when they got their connection, but I saw the WiFI connection and was told that the electricity to power their junction box is also being taken from our building. ” Madhu noted that the issue could have been resolved peacefully, but since the ISP has chosen not to compensate him, he will take the case to consumer court in the next months.
Ask him if he would change his broadband connection now, Madhu says that ACT’s service is reliable in the area where he lives. He is subscribed to the 300 Mbps monthly plan and notes that he is quite happy with that. “I am happy with the internet connection, not with their attitude in ACT’s customer service,” he concludes.
Earlier this year in June, a Twitter user @tfstheidiot wrote that there are two broadband services in the apartment where he lives and that installers from ACT installed the network switch, but “for the power, they connected the live wires to the power socket of the second ISP and anytime when the second ISP sees it they cut it off.” The Twitter user was looking for help online, so someone from the ISP’s team could provide him with an extension cord. He further noted that “70 per cent of the apartment loses internet and when we contact them to fix it, they do it again. Today the 2nd ISP’s tech came and removed the power and locked their box. I ask them more than 20 times to at least get an extension cord and keep it, but they don’t.”
Another Twitter user who goes by the username Anna Usha wrote, “I know someone who paid a bomb for a dedicated internet line, but the entire colony was being connected from his junction box! We realised it when they decided to install another operator and switched it off.”