Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Thursday, September 9, 2010

What is the current state of ICE’s Kolbi, anyway?

Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk. - - - Henry David Thoreau

(It should not take you long to see that my title, up there, is perhaps a bit misleading. But, stick with it. It may get better)

Some of you are undoubtedly aware that Costa Rica's ubiquitous electric, telephone, internet end-all-be-all is known as ICE (Instituto Costariccense de Electricidad). This government monopoly blithely spreads itself quite like a cancer across the land, doing pretty much what it pleases, with its employees being among the highest paid in the nation (that's not necessarily saying a lot). Those same employees also very much display at their wont one of the world's supreme examples of an attitude that makes it very clear to you, the consumer, that your needs, wants, desires, wishes, or hopes don't mean squat to ICE.

These are the same employees who will tell you to your face that you have two options: 1) accept whatever $hit they want to offer you, or 2) don't. These are the same employees who held a one day, nationwide work slow down (how the hell anybody could tell that this was a slow down, I'll never know) to protest the possibility that the government of Costa Rica might allow competition to raise its ugly head. This, of course meant the frightening (to them) possibility that they might actually have to start providing some service, which means they might actually have to work for their collective and (relatively speaking) lucrative livings.

I probably should get to the point of this post, but I'm having fun (maybe I'm on a roll?)…… I'm just getting' started, so bear with me just a bit more. This entity (ICE) is notorious for blatantly wasteful spending, resulting in some of the highest electricity rates in the Western Hemisphere – especially when you consider the poor quality of service and product that they provide. I figure the lights go out – admittedly, usually for just a few seconds or minutes at a time – at least three to four times per week, and often for much longer periods of time (last Wednesday, alone, that was more like three to four times). This may or may not be accompanied by something as obvious as an electrical storm, or heavy rainfall.

This is also the same entity that must possess the largest fleet of company owned vehicles (not just per capita, but period) in the very same Western Hemisphere. (I wanted to say something clever here, like True story: with a colon, and then pass this along to you, but I guess that wouldn't fit my standards, since I have an upcoming rant/lament about the state of journalism today). A young man who works for ICE, at a lower executive level, recently told me (making this hearsay evidence, your honor) how, when the executives have to attend a meeting away from their home office, this will result in the following: say there are four guys from said office going to the meeting in San Jose. Since one of the signs of a successful, one might even say upwardly mobile, ICE exec is to have an assigned car and driver that means that four different cars, with four different drivers will all make the trip. Multiply that by however many execs are attending from different parts of the country, and you get an idea of how many wasted man hours and how much wasted energy this represents.

Take a drive along any of the country's horrible roads. I guarantee you that you will see more vehicles with an ICE logo, usually with only one or two people in them, than you will see of anything else. Now, for those who haven't observed another phenomenon of Costa Rican life, to put it mildly, you will never see a more labor intensive culture, anywhere. I think I've mentioned before how silly it is to deal with three different people to buy one lousy nail at the ferreteria.

Well, despite being top heavy with execs, and having way too many employees in general, ICE still subcontracts a lot of the actual work that they should be providing. A case in point: the guys who actually strung our phone line from the road to our pole, were employees of a subcontractor. Another example: just this week, I had a problem with my phones. For whatever reason, none of the three phones in the house rings anymore, and the caller ID on one of them shows no incoming calls. I could make calls, but I had no way of knowing when someone called me. So, I reported this, in person, to my local ICE office. That very same day a guy drove up to the house, and checked it out (great service, right?), but he was NOT an employee of ICE. He was a subcontractor!

OK, fun time is over. This is why I really started this rant, post, whine/bitch session, story, or whatever:

Over the last few months I've talked to a number of people who have said things like, "You know, the 3g was not that good to begin with, and then, when they made it necessary to either pay more money, or stay with a lower speed, I decided to just pay the same amount, and stick with the lower speed. I don't see any difference, anyway. I mean, it's the same slow speed, whether I pay more or not."

So, that got me to thinking. I had immediately gone to ICE to make sure they put me on the fastest plan, knowing that it would cost me more money, and things have just gone along as always. The signal is still very inconsistent, being mostly weak, and slow, but once in a while, jumping up to the promised 1Mbps. The problem, obviously, is that it is not consistent, one way or the other. Lately, however, with the increased rains (it is, after all, the rainy season), it is mostly a weak signal, so that means less speed.

Actually, the friendly people at my local ICE office have suggested that I go ahead and ask for the lower tier, slower speed, and have also said that there does not appear to be much difference. One young lady there actually said, "Why pay more money if you are not getting a better service? Do you want to change?" I declined on the grounds that it is a risk I just don't want to take without some more evidence.

Just the same, based on what they say at ICE itself, and being curious about all these folks who have claimed to have told ICE to leave them at the lower tier (less money per month), and then claimed that they see no difference in performance compared to their previous supposed high speed, I decided to post general inquiries about this matter on some web forums. Basically, I mentioned what I have been hearing, and asked if anyone at all could provide any hard data to show that the people now paying less are indeed still getting the same service they were getting before. So far, there have been no takers.

    I have received a couple of personal emails, neither of which quite came up to what I was seeking. One talked about his experience with a setup much like my own, and reported that he is also still paying for and receiving the higher speed. The other said all his Tico friends have dumped the Kolbi data card, and it is just so much crap, and a cell phone internet experience is better. And, obviously, neither of these two guys had any data to meet my inquiry. So, I guess I'm stuck with what I've got, at least until something better comes along.

OK, let's wrap this up. It has now, by the way, been more than a week since I posted my inquiries on at least three different forums. I have received no response whatsoever to the actual request. Not one person, of all those who have claimed to have stayed with the lower speed, has responded. I have spoken to a couple of people who were able to tell me that they only do email, and a small amount of internet surfing, so I must conclude that no one who is serious about the 'net has made this deliberate change to the lower cost/lower speed connection. And, to repeat what I said up above, it looks like I am stuck with this set up.

Ah, but wait! What's this I see up on the road? Amnet has strung cable all the way from Tilaran to Nuevo Arenal! That means that cable might actually be available right here within the next decade! I think I'll give them a call…………pura vida, mae……..tranquilo……


  1. Hi,

    I enjoyed your post, and empathized as well. I'm in the Central Valley, in a very rural area, Puriscal, and I sing the "why is the internet soooo slow," blues most nights.

    I detail some of my frustrations in my blog:


  2. maybe you should move back to the states???

  3. Thank you for you experience. I would like to have your permission to link this to our real estate site so people considering buying or renting a home and using ICE's 3G service will here the truth about the service right from the proverbial "Horse's Mouth"

  4. Rosibel, please fell free to link to my blog at any time.