March 11, 2008

Changing Internet Providers

We decided to change internet providers. Our current provider does a pretty good job but at the US $ equivalent of almost $2,000 a month for a 256k connection, it was just too much for our budget. We found another provider (call them OW) that could provide a dedicated 128k connection at a little more than $400. Since the connection is dedicated, we should get roughly the same bandwidth with OW as with the 256k shared we got from the current provider.

We had contacted OW a few months ago and they had given us a quotation that was even higher than our current provider. When we decided last week to look for alternatives one of our interns told us his dad could get us a connection very fast. It turns out that his dad was merely an unofficial reseller for OW. But since our name was not mentioned by the Dad when OW gave him the quote, he was able to get a much better quote than we ever could (people just assume that we are incredibly rich and quotations here are often based on who is buying and not what is being sold).

OW was definitely a little disappointed to find out we were the client. They thought they could have gotten a much higher rate from us. Anyway, their claim to fame is to get you up and running the same day. We placed the order on a Thursday. No installation. They promised to do it on Friday. No installation. Then they promised to come on Saturday. No one showed up. Yesterday, we finally wrote a letter to them saying that if the installation was not complete by 3 PM, we would cancel and they would have to refund the entire installation fee and one month prepayment we had paid (installation cost was over $700 even after negotiations). Their manager agreed to have everything done by then. No one showed up until 2:30 PM. They started working on the roof to set up their equipment. Until 8 PM they were still on the roof. They promised to come this morning by 7 AM to continue. They did not arrive until 10.

A couple hours later, the technical manager comes to see us to explain that they would not be able to install the equipment after all. Their installation requires line of sight and there was a tall building between us and them (I guess they had never noticed it before now) and their equipment would not be tall enough to overcome that. So we have this gigantic beam on our roof that they now have to remove.

We had already cancelled service from our previous provider and we have no internet. Our second choice was with the state owned telecom. They are the exclusive provider of fiber optic service to the other ISPs and are themselves providers using ADSL. The paperwork to get a connection reads like a loan application. In addition to certified copies of this and that, they want photographs of the top manager as well as a copy of his national identity card. We have been customers forever since they have exclusivity over land lines but we don’t exist in their internet system and have to apply like everyone else. The application has to be accompanied with payment (cash or certified check) for the installation charge and one month of service. Then, they send the application to another city where their headquarters are for processing. The application then comes back and we wait until they have an “available port” to connect us to. They are suggesting two or three weeks. That is civil servant speak for “You will get connected in a few months if you are lucky but if you give me enough money I can move your file up and you will get your connection in a week.”

I am not sure what we will do. We might bite the bullet and go back to our previous provider. So frustrating. Such an essential element of development is incredibly expensive and difficult to obtain. There must be a better way.

Update: We went back to our original provider. Unfortunately, the new provider had sabotaged the original installation (removed the antenna, cut cables, disabled the radio) and after 2 weeks, our former provider is still working to fix the problem. So still no Internet.

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