(Editor's Note: A slightly different version of this article was originally published at http://www.top10costarica.com/)
Never confuse movement with action. Ernest Hemingway
When I was first told of the availability of the then new Huawei 3g Data Card/Modem from ICE to be used with their 3g network for internet only service, I did not hesitate to sign up (this was just before Christmas last year). It was explained by ICE, and understood by me, that this service was new, so there were still bugs to be worked out. That was even the reason given for a low introductory price. It was understood that the speed would be better within a month or so of initial release, and that the cost and speed would be go up together.
The increase in speed did come, but much later (not until late April) than our local office had verbally told me, and it was not automatic. I had to go in person to their office, after I learned that a higher speed was available, and formally request the higher speed, at which time, I began to pay a higher price as well.
Since its inception, the connection speed has very rarely, and only for short periods of time, ever reached the originally promised 1.0Mbps speed. Worse, the upload speed is still atrociously slow, and the overall connection is too dirty (too much ‘jitter,’ for one thing) to allow one to do some of the tasks normally expected over the internet (like, especially VOIP phone calls). The operative word here might well be inconsistency, because the signal has never been stable. Nor am I the only one with a problem. Recently, there was a letter to the Editor of AMCostaRica.com online newzzine, that was seconded by yours truly and another user down in the Osa area.
Last week, after talking with some neighbors about how much worse things had been for the two weeks prior, I went to the local ICE office, where I spoke with Yurbin, a very nice young man (one of two front desk persons), to inquire about why the connection has been so bad of late. He admitted to me that there was a problem with the Huawei equipment located in the local tower. He stated that ICE’s technicians had already done all they could, and now they (ICE) were waiting for representatives from Huawei to come to town to address whatever problems are extant. He didn’t know, but thought someone might come within the next two weeks. He was unable to address the question of a possible refund to those of us who pay for the top tier of service, and who are not receiving same. He did offer (and, this was not the first time that an ICE representative has made this offer to me) to change my account to the lower tier, lower cost, but did not understand why this is not acceptable to me (I can’t seem to make them understand that it is inconvenient to have to make two trips to their office to affect what should be done over the phone. Nor can they understand the concept that maybe a company that gave a damn about its customers might voluntarily do something like this).
Then, two days ago, I resolved to make yet another attempt to reach ICE’s tech support by phone (193 didn’t work, but the live person there was able to refer me to 115, where I pretty much got lost in the system of pre-recorded and very much disembodied voices that kept giving me teasing options). I should note that I had already tried this once or twice before. On one occasion, a techie was able to get me back online, by guiding me to change some settings in my software. Then, the day before yesterday, I finally cut a techie off, and hung up after becoming frustrated by her attempts to have me do what had already been done, and her inability to address my specific concerns. Those specific concerns had and have to do with the fact that the service has been even worse than usual over the last three weeks, and a (to ICE) strange desire to want to actually receive that which I am paying.
Yesterday, while waiting online for yet another techie, I idly connected my Zoom Modem to the PC, and went online. All of a sudden, after weeks and months of it not being there, I had a fast, steady connection! A full 1Mbps per the most stringent speed test that I know, and that test gave me - for the first time in months of testing - three green lights signaling that I actually had a good enough connection to allow a VOIP call (not necessarily good enough for a video conference, you understand, but Skype should have worked). I was amazed. I tried out my Slingplayer program, and it was actually working for the first time in months, with a good download speed approaching 500Mbps (this is the minimum speed that Slingmedia software and equipment needs in order to function. And, this is a phenomenon of the slingmedia concept: Even when the internet speed test hits as high as 1Mbps, the slingplayer software drops that down to half, or less, thus rendering the software useless). But, alas, this good connection was all too short lived. It fell back to the normal, slow, unstable connection that I have come to hate these last months, within about fifteen minutes.
So, yesterday, while in town on other business, I made it a point to go yet again to the local office of ICE. On this occasion I actually spoke to the local Gerente, Mario Murillo. I asked him if maybe somebody had been working on the tower the day before, maybe during that brief time that I experienced the short lived good connection. He did not know, but he did acknowledge that there is some sort of problem with the Huawei equipment in the local tower, and ICE is expecting someone to come to town within the next week to address whatever issue is present. He also made me that same (in my opinion) empty offer to change my plan to the lower speed, lower cost tier.
So, here we are. Living in paradise, far from the madding crowd, as it were, but also far from so many things that I used to take for granted. Of course, in this case I am only crying over the lack of a high speed internet connection. I think the frustration is that I made the mistake of believing the ICE was actually offering me a real alternative to dial up (OK. It is a real alternative, but it is still too slow to be properly called broadband). Who knows if or when they will get whatever is wrong fixed, but I figure they have come a long way to finally admit that there is an equipment problem. But, you probably did notice that, true to ICE form, they are still not accepting the responsibility for any failure, since they are blaming Huawei’s equipment.
Meanwhile, a new problem has arisen. For the last few mornings, when I first turn on my PC, I now notice that my internet connection is gone (I have a router that is on 24/7, mostly from habit, but actually for my Skype phone, which I can rarely use, anyway). So, as soon as the PC boots, I have to reset the router each and every day. Yet another cause for frustration..........And, so the continuing saga of my disillusionment with ICE and this Kolbi system goes on. Stay tuned.