I am posting this morning via my new hi-speed internet service from Amnet, one of the two cable companies here. YAHOO!!!! We have been using WiMAX, a wireless signal shot from a huge tower on the mountain behind us. The plan is to provide WiMAX to the entire country, which is way better than no internet. Which is what the majority of the country has now. In a country thick with mountains, rainforest and jungle, wireless is the answer. Stringing cable and phone lines is problematic for obvious reasons. What we from developed nations don’t consider is that the cable frequently gets stolen after you’ve gone through the trouble of installing it into remote areas.
The downside to WiMAX is that, even though we can see the tower, we’ve never gotten the speed we are paying for. Plus it’s unreliable and spotty. When it’s your only choice, you are darn grateful. If you have a choice, you take the option.
As of today, cable gives us 2000kb/s download (stuff we get FROM the www) and 512kb/s upload (stuff we send THROUGH the www, like our voices on VoIP). This is really really exciting for us. Because now our families can hear us talking via VoIP without delays, echos, blank spots, cut-off calls. We are giddy. Kinda sad this is all it takes, isn’t it?
Cable internet is ONLY available to innies: those of us in the heart of the central valley. Outies (everyone else) who have a phone line get DSL (hi-speed via phone line) if DSL is available in their area. If not, they go with dial-up. DSL is available in lots of places thru-out the central valley and in spots along the west coast. But there is no predicting where. For instance, it’s not available at our house but is available just down the road… go figure. It just recently became available in a couple of towns on the Caribbean side.
Outie or innie, you pay a price. For outies, it’s not having the service. For innies, it’s getting the service. Getting the service at my house was a clusterfuck. If you live in Costa Rica, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. If you are moving to Costa Rica and don’t know what I’m talking about, brace yourself. You are in for one of the biggest challenges to life here. Next to the roads and the bars (on the windows, not the corners).
Here, not only do you get to pay $70/month for the service, you earn the right to get the service by overcoming hurdles placed in your path. Sometimes as punishment for wanting to do it your way. More often because the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, making you want to pull your hair out.
Two prime factors complicating communications with any Costa Rican person or company, monopoly or private, created my hurdles. The first is that ticos don’t want to give you bad news. Ever. About anything. So the answer to "Do you think it will rain today?" is always, "No!" Even as the first drop hits your nose. The second factor is that the person you are talking to believes s/he is absolutely 100% right and you don’t need to confirm this info. The buck has stopped. They sound so positive you believe them.
NOTE: This second factor is not restricted to Costa Rican employees, of course. But in the states, the buck doesn’t stop anywhere. You just get sent to voicemail hell until you hang up.
The adventure began Wednesday morning, 30 May 2007, when I called Amnet on a whim and asked the Customer Service Guy (CSG) if cable modem was available at my house yet. He looked up my direcciones and said, "Yes. A salesperson will call you within 24 hours to make an appointment to come to your house and sign the contract." I knew from getting TV service that once the contract was signed, they would make another appointment to have the service installed. Remember: paperwork is critically important, nothing will do but original signatures and everything takes waaaay more time than you think it will.
Deep down, I knew no one would call and I’d have to call again. At least once more. C’est la vie.
A week later, no one had called. I called again, repeating that I’d like cable modem, I had called a week before but no one had called. Being a trained actress, I successfully sounded surprised rather than annoyed. Annoyance will get you NOWHERE fast. Remember: this is how they do it. If you sound annoyed, they will be taken aback. They will wonder what your problem is – not arrogantly like in the states, but actually mystified. You will become the Customer Who Cannot Be Satisfied. And they stop trying to please you. It’s that simple.
The CSG looked up my direcciones and said, "Yes, cable modem is available at your house. A salesperson will call you within
24 hours to make an appointment to come to your house and sign the
Two days later, no one had called. So I call and go through the initial stages again. I am very pleasant. This time, the CSG looked up my direcciones and said, "Yes, you can have cable modem at your house. I will give you the name and phone number of your salesperson and you can get in touch with her directly. She is on vacation, I think, so I will also give you the name and number of the other salesperson for your area." Wow – this is great!
I call my salesperson. I guess she is indeed on vacation because she doesn’t answer her cel and I leave a message. I call the other salesperson for my area and she answers. Alas, she is not for my area. She gives me the number of the guy in charge of my entire area. I am so pleasant when I call him. Alas, my pleasantry takes on an unpleasant edge when he tells me there is in fact no cable modem available in my area yet. They expect to have it in the next few weeks and I should please call him back in a month.
I hang up and do not scream or weep in frustration. Once you survive a few scenarios like this, you become immune to the emotional roller coaster. Pretty much. I plan to call back July or August and forget about it.
The next week Hal and I take off for Uvita. During our trip, the salesperson who was on vacation got back to work, got our message and called my cel to set up the contract appointment… Hal wisely did not disclose we’d been told service was not available to us. Then foolishly told her we were away and would she call back Tuesday? HA. Tuesday came and went, no phone call.
Did I mention I am persistent? Like a dog with a bone.
I waited a few more days because I am oh so patient and, 26 June, almost 30 days after my first phone call, I called again. I am very pleasant, like I’m calling for the first time. The CSG looked up my direcciones and said, "Yes, you can have cable modem at your house. A salesperson will
call you within 24 hours to make an appointment to come to your house
and sign the contract." This guy was SO efficient, I actually believed him. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I guess the call from the sales rep while we were in Uvita gave me renewed hope. Since it’s only 24 hours, I wait by the phone…
Guess what? Twenty-four hours and no one calls. I called them on the dot of 24 hours, got the same CSG I spoke to the day before and, ojalá, WE HAVE AN APPOINTMENT 2PM THAT DAY to sign the contract.
So. Is the service available here or not? I’m not making any bets until after the rep has been to my house and the contract is signed.
2pm. Ojalá, our girl shows up, we sign the paperwork. She says, "The installer will
call you within 24 hours to make an appointment to come to your house
and install the service."
Guess what? Twenty-four hours rolls around and no one calls. But someone does in 48. We make an appointment for 2 July to install. Yesterday, they showed up and delivered. OH. We are so happy. All is forgiven.
Getting the service may have been a clusterfuck but only as compared to how I would expect it to happen in the U.S. But, ojalá, I’m not in the U.S. and things are different here. In fact, for all my sarcasm, I prefer this system. Everyone here was well-intentioned, pleasant, honest. Each believed s/he had all the information needed. You learn, either quickly or not at all, that this is how they do it. Live with it.
My fellow bloggers and every expat I’ve met have all said this and it bears repeating: If you are moving to Costa Rica, you need patience and a sense of humor. Above all. Above ALL. I don’t care how much money you have or who you think you are: if you don’t have an abundance of patience and humor in your arsenal, you will never tolerate life here. I have a sense of humor. Impatience has made me forget it. If you want my advice, develop some of both. Living here is worth the effort.