Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Monday, January 10, 2011

Part III – being the third head of our modern Tico version of Cerberus*

The wonderful, marvelous, modern, new 3g Kolbi internet service is here - - NOT!  You know, I am of course used to dealing with mostly American utilities and service providers.  I also have been a customer of Skype for some years, and they are European, I believe.  I will freely admit that the ‘service’ provided to me over the years from cable providers in the states was not always all that good, and I did not find them to be particularly customer oriented, but generally, they did not offer a service that they were not prepared to deliver.  And, with the exception of the cable company, most utilities that I dealt with – all my life – have been quick to apologize for service interruptions, and even to issue a credit for extended service interruptions.  Skype, for example, just recently experienced a worldwide outage that lasted for some hours.  Personally, I was not even aware of this outage, and before I became aware of it, Skype had issued me a credit as a means of apologizing for the outage.  Not only that, but I have received three apologetic emails from them since the outage.
Now we come to my alteration of Winston Churchill’s famous quote.  ICE has a very small market, compared to just about anybody, right?  That’s the ‘few; I referenced.  Then, take the value we ‘few’ receive from ICE, especially with this Kolbi thing.  That is the ‘little’ I mentioned.  As for the “many,” I mentioned, that would be the many, oh so many, too many employees of ICE.
By the way, the name, Kolbi, it has been explained to me, is the national frog of this little country, and I gotta question the use of such a symbol for this particular purpose.  I mean, many things come to mind when I hear ‘frog,’ but none of them inspire anything resembling what I might want from a service or product – you know, the little things like, oh…say, reliability, dependability, strength, value for money; stuff like that).  OK, maybe if they were quick to “hop” to providing service?  But, we all know better than that, don’t we?
Once more, here’s the thing:  back in December of 2009, that young man I mentioned at the beginning of this epic, came home to spend his holidays with his parents.  He came to see me the day after his arrival in our area, very excited to tell me that he believed ICE (his employer) was about to offer the solution to what I had been complaining about for months.  That would be the solution to my lack of a reliable and fast internet connection (because all I had available to me, up to that time, was dial up).  You see, he knew that I really wanted to be able to watch American Football, via my Slingbox, that was already set up back in Texas.  He excitedly told me about the Kolbi data card/modem.  He mistakenly said that they were going to provide download speeds of 1Gbps (that’s Giga Bit Per Second), which certainly got my attention.
He then went all the way to Tilaran the next day to get his own data card.  He came back that afternoon and showed it off to me, with his laptop, in my little living room.  We both understood that this was new, and that ICE was saying that there was an introductory price for the present because they were acknowledging that their system was not complete, so they could not promise the top speed just yet.  The understanding that we both had was that we were going to pay a very small amount per month until the system was truly up and running, and able to provide a high speed, then we would automatically get the highest speed, and our bill would go up accordingly.
Oh, he was wrong on so many accounts!  First of all the top speed promised was and is an occasional foray up to a certain point, but by no means was it being promised to be a consistently high speed.  And, it certainly was not anywhere near 1Gbps.  It was only 1Mbps (MegaBitPerSecond)**, and the wording is something like, “capable of speeds up to,” as opposed to something like, “offering sustained download speeds of 1Mbps.”  Here we come to another area that might require a bit more explanation:  I have found a web site that does a real speed test, one that offers the user an explanation for why their (ICE’s) supposed high speed internet ain’t.  It is provided by a thing called VisualWare, and is located at this URL:,%20Texas&ver=8&map=namerica&codec=speedstd&codectext=Standard%20View&width=600&provtext=Phonoscope&provlink=
          I know, that’s a long URL, but the test provided sure serves to make me feel bad about my connection.  Yes, I said bad, and that is just what I meant to say.  What I get from their speed test is not just download and upload speeds, but also a very important little item that they label as “Quality of Service,” which is the best indicator of whether or not one really has a broadband connection.  If this percentage is low, one cannot hope to do something as simple as complete a satisfactory VOIP call, let alone ever hope to stream video or have a video conference, via VOIP.  Would it surprise you to know that my ‘Quality of Service’ is rarely up to snuff?  Just now, this morning, I ran a test, and it is actually pretty good for me, at my location.  Here is what the results look like:
 (Just click on the image to bring up a larger size).
          My download speed is rated at 974Mbps, which is pretty good for the Kolbi, and the upload speed of 291Mbps is really good for Kolbi.  Mind you, that upload speed is not as good as I would like it, but it’s better than the 150, or less that ICE usually gives me.  Now, you may have noted that the overall Quality of Service is 84%, which, according to this web sites, is not really adequate for video.  However, that being said, would you believe that 84% is better than I usually have?  And, it is raining cats and dogs right now!  Go figure.  Oh.  One more thing.  You may have noticed that the site thinks I am in the U. S. A.  That is because I use a VPN to hide my true location, since Costa Rica is noted to be a center of serious worldwide internet fraud, and many legitimate web sites, all over the world, block IP’s that are read as being in Costa Rica.
          Now, to carry on, let me sum up.  I signed up for an internet connection that I thought would give me adequate speed to do what I most wanted to do, which is watch American TV via my Slingbox/Slingcatcher combination.  My research has taught me that speed alone is not what I need for acceptable video streaming.  You see, without an adequate upload speed, whatever website you go to for downloading, doesn’t know that you want to download unless you tell them, and you can’t tell them if they can’t receive your information because your upload speed is so slow as to not be able to reach them.  Beyond that, if the connection that you achieve is not clean (jitter and other obscure technical terms apply here), you cannot hope to stream video, no matter how fast your download speed might be.
So, here I sit, more than a year into this thing.  The outages have been frequent, inexplicable, and extensive.  Never once have I heard an apology from ICE.  Even though I have gone in person to the local ICE office many times, never an explanation for outages, never an explanation for why they still are not delivering what I am paying for, never an explanation for why the service is so bad, and certainly, never any offer of credit or refund for the times when service was out.  In short, I sit here now telling you that more than one ICE employee has actually told me that I have two choices:  (1), Accept what they laughingly offer, or (2), don’t.  Can you imagine any reputable business, anywhere in the world having the audacity to offer a service that they cannot deliver, and then having the chutzpah to continue charging for the service that they do not deliver, simply because they know that their customers have no choice in the matter?!  Can you say monopoly?
To get back to that question asked in Part I of this opus, about how they can charge so much for so little:  Yes, I know a large part of the answer is obvious, and I’ve already touched on it.  That would be simply the fact that there are too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.  But, it goes beyond that:  There are too many employees, period.  There are too many folks who don’t want to work.  There are too many folks who can’t think beyond a very narrow set of parameters, as in beyond their own little job description.  There are too many folks who are either afraid to accept, or simply incapable of accepting, any responsibility for ever making a decision.  The saddest thing of all is that monopoly is a dirty word to most of us, but it is not only in Costa Rica that the concept is alive and well.  Look at the size of AT&T once again.  Look at the size of Exxon/Mobil.  Does anyone out there remember what Teddy Roosevelt did?

*Cerberus – according to Greek Mythology, this was the three headed dog that guarded the gates of Hell.  I know that ICE has more than three heads, but in my case there are only three that apply – electric, phone, and Kolbi.  And, I don’t think you can argue that once in (a paying customer of ICE) there ain’t no place else around here that so closely approximates most accepted descriptions of Hell as the inner workings of ICE.

** Clarification of those measurements:  mega means million, and giga means billion, so giga is 1000 times mega.

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