Eir needs to send a message about Covid-19

Last month, eir announced that is was beginning the wind down of the eircom.net webmail service. Actually, it wasn’t that obvious a move, it was an announcement that from 31 March 2019 the free e-mail service would be going subscription-only with a monthly fee of €5.99.

For those unwilling or unable to subscribe, access will be revoked from that date and messages held for a further 60 days before being erased, along with the associated e-mail address.

I can’t imagine anyone getting annoyed over the end of the eircom.net brand but unlike, say, Hotmail, which has the option of changing up to the modern outlook.com domain. In the case of eircom.net there are no plans to contemporise the brand, merely shepherd it into obsolescence.

The Covid-19 emergency, however, could change that.

At time of writing there are 33 confirmed cases of Covid-19 on the island of Ireland (21 in the Republic, 12 in the North) and concerns are that 1.9 million people could become infected.

So far the global mortality rate stands at 3.4% with those over 60 or with underlying health issues most at risk.

Some will never know they have been infected or display only mild symptoms. The most common symptoms to look out for are a fever, a dry cough, fatigue, a sore throat, and chills. A small number will experience nausea, vomiting, nasal congestion, or diarrhea.

There is no vaccine or treatment for Covid-19 and the advice remains to ‘self isolate’ for a period up to 14 days – long enough for the immune system to deal with the virus and stave off the risk of passing it to others. Reports of staples like pasta, rice and bread selling out at ‘Beast from the East’ levels are, for the moment, only comedic relief though bonus points go to the Australian newspaper that gave away a roll of toilet paper for every reader.

Plan of action

On a more serious note, with the main strategy for beating the virus relying on limiting contact with the outside world it becomes imperative that as many lines of communication between citizens and the government stay open. This is where the world of commerce and public health collide. On the one hand you have a telco winding down a long-running service and on the other is a health system bracing for a pandemic. A lack of information from ground level through to management could have disastrous implications.

Consider, also, the demographic of many eircom.net users. Our straw poll has found these skew older and would be less likely to manage multiple e-mail accounts or maintain a social media presence. A customer care e-mail or a phone line be set up to help eircom.net account holders to transition to an alternative provider would be a low-overhead, high-value initiative.

Removing any line of communication during an emergency is callous. To not immediately offer an alternative or find help find one in the current climate is inexplicable.

I would hope eir’s better angels prevail and the March deadline be pushed back to a more sympathetic time.