When I lived in the United States, I never really thought about my internet speed or if I had an internet connection. Unless there was a power outage, which was rare, the connection and speed was consistent. We had cable internet with fiber optics. I am not even sure what the speed was; I just know it worked and was fast.
Here in Pedasí is a different matter altogether. I am thankful that we have at least DSL, meaning our internet is connected to our phone line through the modem/router. Some people, depending on where they live, can only get a internet stick for their computer or a hotspot (similar, but wirelessly connects up to 5 devices). Those who have the sticks seem to have even more problems. We pay for 5 mps (the maximum we can purchase with our internet provider), but only receive about 4.35 mps maximum for download at best; upload speed is much worse. I have been told that is really good for Pedasí. Usually around 3-6 pm it is even slower. And when the power goes out, which happens often, almost daily, it sometimes takes several hours to get it back up to maximum speed. I find myself constantly checking the speed through a speed test app on my iPad. Although the modem/router and computer displays the internet is connected, the speed tests indicates a very low speed at times, and sometimes the tests fail, displaying a message that there is no network connection or the latency test has failed. When it gets really slow, I reboot the modem and much of the time, the speed starts to pick up. But if that doesn’t work, I call our internet provider, Cable & Wireless. They are getting to know me with my almost weekly, sometimes several times a day, calls about slow speed or no connection. They usually reset everything online from Panama City and that does the trick for a while. If not, they set an appointment for a technician to come out, who tests the system locally. We have had the modem/router replaced 3 times since we moved here, apparently due to heat & humidity damage. I have a small fan that blows on the modem/routers to keep them cooler, but the modem, according to the technician, seems to need replacing. Funny thing is, we also have a cloaking router from the U.S. We have never had to replace it.
You can imagine our frustration at times. Just when I am ready to send an important email, publish a posting on my blog, make an online transaction to pay a bill or transfer money to an account, the internet speed slows down to a snail’s crawl or disconnects completely. We only have TV through Apple TV which is again through the internet (we chose not to have satellite). So there have been many times while watching a movie or program through Netflix when suddenly the picture freezes and it continues to buffer. Downloading a movie rental from iTunes can be a real challenge. There are other alternatives, but it still involves the internet connection and of course, power.
We do have data (Más Movil) on our phones which goes through a different system. Más Movil is available through Cable & Wireless. So we are not completely stranded when the power goes out or there is no wifi service. That I am very grateful for. And when our MagicJack phone (also connected through the internet) is not working to make free calls to U.S. and Canada, we have MagicJack apps on our cell phones that will work with the cellular data connection. There has been only one time when both the DSL and data service were down together. All of Cable & Wireless throughout Panama was down. It can be a little more difficult using the phone as our computer with a tiny keyboard and fat fingers, but it will do, if necessary.
But today I choose to be grateful that I have the availability and capability of internet, however slow, intermittent, and frustrating at times it may be. It connects me to my friends and family; it provides entertainment; it makes things easier with apps and programs. I was born in the ’50’s. There was no internet, personal computers, cell phones, MagicJack, even cordless phones. Technology has come a long way in the last 50+ years. We take for granted all these devices and services, even here in this small rural pueblo of Panama. There are many who don’t have any of these things and are happy with their lives as they are. So I am thankful for such things and that I can afford them as well, although the cost of cell and internet service is a lot less than when I lived in California; again for which I am thankful for.
Hopefully I will be able to post this without the power going out or the internet slowing down to much when I send it out. But as we say here, “This is Panama”(TIP). I guess I could always go back to writing and mailing letters; you might receive a letter once or twice a year from me depending on how inspired I would be to write to everyone and the Panama postal system. Letter writing has become a forgotten art. Thank God there is a faster, easier way to communicate now. And when it all goes down, Mikkel and I can take advantage of the time to talk to each other face-to-face, play table/card games, take walks, read books-just as we did for entertainment in the ’50’s. I am thankful for these times as well.