Fibre fail keeps businesses on the hop

Businesses in Simon’s Town say they are losing income due to regular fibre outages.

Regular fibre outages in Simon’s Town are making life difficult for business there.

This is according to the Simon’s Town Business Association, which places the blame on Frogfoot, a network fibre provider.

In recent months, there have been several outages in the town, including on Sunday October 3, and Tuesday October 5, says the association’s chairwoman, Steph Mellor.

Despite efforts made by the association, including emailing Frogfoot’s CEO, they had received no feedback and were told by their local internet service provider (ISP), that it could not assist as it was a Frogfoot problem, she said.

“Their customer service does not exist, and we just can’t get any answers from them,” she said.

Marie-Louise Cardwell, co-owner of Avian Leisure, a tour operator, said a stable internet line was vital for her fully online business.

Ms Cardwell also lets two self-catering flats on Airbnb.

“I recently had a guest from the UK who stayed for almost a month on a working holiday. During his first week here, Frogfoot was down for more than 24 hours. He missed his Zoom meetings that day and eventually had to decamp to a coffee shop downtown that uses a different service provider. This is not a good advertisement for a staycation destination.”

She had suffered significant financial losses during the festive season as she had only received a notification of a booking for her Airbnb after the required response time had lapsed due to no connectivity at the time, she said.

In the past eight weeks, she said, Frogfoot had been down at least four times, the first time being from August 14 to 16 for 48 hours and thereafter on September 1 and September 15 for approximately 12 to 24 hours and then on Sunday and Tuesday October3 and 5 for about six hours.

“None of these appeared to be part of a planned maintenance schedule nor was there any prior communication as a courteous notification to users,” she said.

Ms Cardwell said she had tried in vain to get answers from Frogfoot and her ISP.

The business model, of the consumer having to contract with a third party, which leases the fibre line from the sole service provider such as Frogfoot, simply did not work well, she said.

In her street alone, she said, there were about five service providers, such as Vox, Mweb, Wibrenet, Afrihost, and Vodacom, which meant she could not exert enough pressure on the service provider to step up and there was no point in moving from one third party to another as the underlying connectivity issue remained with Frogfoot.

Nadine Bentley, general manager of African Shark Eco-Charters, which offers shark-cage diving, fishing charters, and marine activities in Simon’s Town, said 90% of their business was online as they received enquiries and bookings by email and the booking site.

Having no internet made it impossible for them to make bookings or respond to enquiries.

“Coming out of a pandemic, when tourism has basically been crippled and having to deal with these sorts of issues is unacceptable,” she said.

Esther Le Roux, an estate agent and secretary of the Simon’s Town Business Association, said it was difficult to quantify the losses suffered by businesses and by those working from home.

She works mainly from home and moved house at the end of August. She said her Telkom ADSL line was much more reliable than Frogfoot.

When the fibre was out, she said, she could not send or receive emails and she could not rely on her mobile data due to poor signal in parts of Simon’s Town.

“I can’t even connect to a banking app on my mobile data,” she said.

During the outages, she tried to contact Frogfoot, but her attempts to look up a contact number using mobile data “took forever” and she eventually gave up.

“Since I’ve moved, we’ve had at least four outages, and one of them was for several days,” she said.

Service providers just pointed the finger at Frogfoot, she said.

Frogfoot had sold themselves hard in Simon’s Town and had had the support from most of the residents who had wanted a fast and efficient fibre network instead of having to rely on the national fixed-line provider.

“There is huge disappointment in the very shaky delivery of this service which has obviously proven problematic for the provider,” she said.

But Frogfoot, described as “Froggin’ awesome fibre” on its website, has blamed the ISPs and say it is aware of only one outage on Tuesday October 5.

Frogfoot spokeswoman Kayleigh Rossler said the outage on Sunday October 3 had been isolated as Frogfoot had not been down on that day.

Ms Rossler was vague about what had caused the outage on October 5, saying: “The vendors were on site … to resolve the issues and put measures in place to ensure that residents were back up. The permanent resolve is currently in progress, but residents are online again and additional infrastructure has already been deployed to ensure that we address any connectivity issues experienced.”

She said users could email for any problems.