Sorry Sir, the Internet is Broken.

I here the phrase above so often in the Philippines I can barely believe it. Replace the word ‘Internet’ with almost anything you use in daily life, and there, in a nutshell, is life in Manila.

I should have started this blog a long time ago when I first moved here. At that point I was still incredulous and I would doubtlessly have filled many pages with examples of inefficiency and brokenness in this country. I may still fill in some of the more memorable examples at a later stage, but to kick this blog off, my main beef at the moment is the Internet.

I use a broadband connection by SmartBro. I chose it specifically because I don’t have a landline, and because I’m likely to move around a bit during my first few months here. Every broadband plan has a 12 month lock-in, so I figured at least I could take this one with me.

So what do I get for my P1000 a month (USD 25 a month and climbing)?

  • I get a connection which has a maximum speed of 47kilobyes/sec, or around 380kilobits/sec as they market it. This is fine for browsing and email, and should be enough to watch a bit of youtube every now and then. In reality, the connection speed often drops as low as 2 kilobytes/sec, and as the connection I have seems to be behind a proxy server which drops any connections after 2 mins, streaming video isn’t an option. Neither is updating your OS, or downloading files over 3Mb, unless you’re a cunning fella, which luckily I am.
  • I get a little wireless box which sits in my house and connects to an upstream wireless device, eliminating the need for wires, and giving me a degree of mobility. Actually, no I don’t. That was just in the advert. As my building is a corporate subscriber, what I actually get is a grey piece of ethernet snaking half way around the flat to my computer. Rather than put in a nice RJ45 socket and give me a cable with an RJ45 plug on each end, they ripped out my phone socket, manually spliced a cable to the wires in there, drilled a hole through the plastic and then stapled the ethernet cable out of the bedroom, underneath the door, along the skirting board, past the other phone socket (the one they should have used) and over to my computer in the living room. It took a team of three people 2 hours to figure this out.
  • I get an IP address on a private network, which means I can’t connect back to my box from remote locations. Bummer.

So, there’s the deal. I get internet that doesn’t work, which was installed incorrectly, for a mere USD 25 a month. Oh, and we’ve had a few multiple day outages to boot in the few months I’ve had it. I’ve complained regularly (normally around the time I pay my bill), and while the support staff are quite happy to listen to me and log a complaint, the promised call from the tech staff never materialises.

My friends in HK, meanwhile, have 100Mbit/second connections with HD video for less money. It hurts.

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