Thursday, March 30, 2006

wireless comes to Kyrgyzstan (well, mainly my apartment)

I'm sat here writing this post on the sofa enjoying the full benefits of wireless broadband technology. Actually, not really the full benefits – it’s probably slower than dial-up connections in most countries and the signal does seem to drop on a fairly regular basis. Impressed? What do you mean no? Oh well yes, I know you’ve had wireless and broadband in your house for years and you can probably download the whole Lord of the Rings Trilogy in ten minutes, but please remember that this is Kyrgyzstan and the fact that I’m sitting here now doing this just doesn’t tell the full story about the joys of trying to get it installed.

You see, you just can’t phone up some company here and say ‘hey, I want broadband and I’m willing to pay’ and they’ll come round and set it all up for you. Goodness no. Firstly, you have to live in the right place. Now, I don’t fully understand the reasons why, but some apartments can have broadband and some can’t. So, you have to put yourself on a waiting list – not for the connection mind you, but just for them to check whether you can have the connection. That took about two months and the answer was a resounding ‘yes’. My how we partied that night. Then, you have to set a date for them to come and install it. That can take a few weeks as well because the company who do all this have to get some kind of permission/authentication from the state-run telephone company to ‘borrow’ their lines. Finally they send someone round to hook you up, explain how to use it and get you to decide on a tariff.

Ah yes, the tariffs. I gather that in other countries you pay some kind of flat fee a month and you get unlimited downloads and traffic. Not so here: there are graded tariffs which limit how much you can download and upload per month. I’m paying $40 a month for 500MB of downloads. Now, I don’t really know that much about this stuff, but five hundred sounded quite a lot. I’m not going to download loads of porn films (clips maybe, but not whole films), so I didn’t think that would get used up. However, I’ve been using it pretty lightly for the last 2-3 weeks and when I checked, I discovered that I’d already used over 700MBs. How the fuck did that happen? Then someone kindly explained to me that just surfing the internet for a few hours a day can eat up 30-40MBs. Hmm, wish someone had told me that earlier…

And then I wanted to have not only broadband, but also wireless. This did seem a little bit like gilding the lily, especially as my flat is the size of a shoebox and I’d probably have to balance the wireless router on my head anyway. But I was insistent. I wanted to be able to lie on the couch or in bed and check my email and dammit, price or logic was not going to be an obstacle. So, I asked the guy who came to install the broadband if he could install wireless as well. I saw a slight flicker behind his eyes (could it be panic?), but ever the professional, he said sure. He came back a few hours later with a wireless router and tinkered away for a few hours and suddenly…nothing. He finally had to admit that this was the first time anyone had ever asked him to install wireless, so he was kind of winging it. But, good guy that he was, he said he would find out and come back next week. Which he did, and he got it all installed and now I’m sat on my sofa writing this post. And I probably won’t be leaving this sofa for a while, as I don’t really have any money left after paying for the internet to be able to, say, go out, buy food, pay the rent or bills. But man, this wireless thing is cool…

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