The house over here in Boquerón is not hooked up to the internet nor television as is the house on the side of the mountain. I don’t care about not having T.V. Here in a Spanish-speaking country if you want to watch television programs in English you have to subscribe to some kind of satellite service such as Sky or Claró and I believe Cable & Wireless and Cable Onda will wire your house. In Potrerillos Arriba the owners had a huge Sky dish out in the back yard. Had it been up to me, and naturally it wasn’t, I would have forgone the $32.48 monthly fee. The programming wasn’t all that great and I only watched a few programs on National Geographic, History and Discovery Channel.
An internet connection, on the other hand, is essential for me. The internet is my major source of entertainment. It’s the only way I can download books from Audible.com to my iPod and reading material to my Kindle. The internet keeps me connected to the world. I freak when I can’t get on line to check out my email throughout the day.
Seven months or so ago when I was living over here in Boquerón I had subscribed with C & W for one of their USB modems. I had to sign a contract and then when everything was hooked up it really sucked. It was like going back to the days of a telephone connection. About the only thing you could do with it was check email and you were restricted to only being able to down and up load a maximum of 2 gigabytes. That may seem like quite a bit, but it’s not. You can run through that in just a few days and then, like so many cell phone plans in the States you pay extortionate overtime charges. The monthly charge for this horrid service was forty something bucks a month. My first month I racked up over $100 bucks in overtime without even knowing it, and after that I was very frugal with my on line time.
As my regular readers know, Panama is rapidly becoming a “wired” country. Most small towns have what are called “Info Plazas.”
The sign says, “Closing the Digital Gap.”
Here in Boquerón there are eight, very up to date computers for people to use and there is also Wi-Fi service. When I was here before it cost 35¢ an hour to either use one of the computers or log on to the Wi-Fi. Of course that depended on who was in charge when I was up there to do my web-surfing. If Nancy was at the desk she logged when I logged on and when I checked out and charged me the 35¢ for each hour. But even playing around for three hours only set me back $1.05 which anyone would agree is quite a bargain. If Karina was manning the plaza I could have stayed there all day and she’d only charge me a flat fee of 35¢. I liked Karina a lot. Now, however, under President Martinelli’s push to get the entire country on line there is no charge at all.
Up on the mountain we were connected to the internet by a company called MobileNet. It cost $45.45/month. It is some kind of a wireless system where the house had an antenna. It wasn’t blinding speed by any means but pretty good though playing streaming videos on YouTube were a bit of a hassle. You had to start the vid and then pause it and wait until the little line at the bottom of the picture filled in otherwise it would play for a few seconds and then stop while it buffered some more. Oh, well, life’s not perfect.
I discontinued my service with C & W for the USB after paying for a lot of months when I didn’t use it at all. One of the problems with having a contracted service. But I still wanted to be able to check my emails and read the news when I got up in the mornings without having to wait for the info plaza to open sometime between 9 and 10 and not at all on Sunday though I could still sit out on the bleachers of the covered basketball court outside the town hall and still get a Wi-Fi feed. But it’s still about a half mile from the house.What to do?
Since I’m going to probably be here for the next two years I checked the possibility of getting the house wired. I know C&W hooks up the houses around here and I asked MobileNet a while back when I went to pay the bill if they serviced Boquerón. They said they did in some parts but we didn’t know if the house was in one of those areas. It probably is but I didn’t ask about connection fees or any of that and I didn’t ask C&W but they were on the list of things to do after I got settled in.
I wasn’t going to go through the whole contract and lousy connection business with C&W again but in Plaza Terronal where I do my grocery shopping there are four cell phone companies, and I noticed in the Claró window they had a USB modem on display so I checked them out. You buy the modem for $40. Well, $39.99 but forty is close enough. You can either sign up with a contract or pre-pay. For $40 a month you can get unlimited service. Last Tuesday I went down and did the deed. I bought the modem and paid the $40. After taxes it came to $84! Sigh, but since it’s pre-paid if it really sucked I’d just be stuck with buying the modem and rely check out getting the house wired.
When I went back up on the mountain I tried it out and, like the old C&W thingy it sucked! Oh, well. The owners of the Potrerillos house drove me here to Boquerón late yesterday morning and naturally one of the first things I did was to plug in the computer and try out the connection.
Let me tell you, they aren’t going to be seeing a lot of me at the Info Plaza. THIS one works great. It’s easily as fast if not a tad faster than the MobileNet connection in Potrerillos Arriba. It still takes a bit of time for a YouTube video to load all the way but it’s probably twice as fast which is nice. I’m going to keep this one and I’ll be saving $5/month over the MobileNet fee.
I’m a happy camper except for the fact that now my camera is acting up.