Monday, November 26, 2012

My internet story

I moved in to my current apartment on August 23. This past weekend, three months later, we finally got internet at home. We tried contracting internet with four different companies, and all told us that it wasn't possible. We tried fibre optic. Our building doesn't have the proper cables. We tried ADSL several times, but we can't get a phone line either.
Story of my life
We live in center of one of the biggest cities in a first world country. So what was the problem? Our story starts 15 years ago with a man named José María Aznar, who was president of Spain at the time. He was not exactly popular, to put it mildly. The novio tells me that his family spent the years of Aznar's presidency (1996-2004) throwing things at the TV when ever he appeared. Among his most unpopular actions was supporting and contributing troops to George Bush's invasion of Iraq in 2003. But what did he do to cause me to be trapped in a 19th century time warp? In 1997 he sold and privatized Spain's national broadband and telecommunication provider, Telefónica. (Selling it to a friend of his, of course) The European Union has since declared this action illegal.
"Yes, I screwed you over" he laughs
How does that affect me? Until 1997, Spain's landline telephones were a public entity. Selling Telefónica resulted in one company having a complete monopoly of phone lines in Spain. And boy do they take advantage of it.

For example, payphones here don't give change. You used a 2 euro coin to make a twenty cent phone call? Too bad for you. Telefónica just robbed you.
A machine designed for theft
Telefónica has been fined and sued for abuse of its dominant position numerous times since its privatization. Most notably, 57 million euros in 2004 for unfair competition, and a fine from the European Commission of 152 million euros for abuse of its dominant position

So what has Telefónica done to me? When they installed phone lines in my plaza, they made a finite number individual lines available, which is less then the number of apartments and businesses trying to get access. Meaning that when we try to contract ADSL internet, which runs off of a phone line, Telefónica says "Sorry, no more phone lines for you." Our landlord told us that there was an operating phone line in the apartment, but when the last tenant left someone else quickly grabbed the available line.

I might be a technology-addicted Generation Y baby, but in the 21st century I find it completely ridiculous that in a metropolitan area, I can't get a phone line.

The root of the problem: Telefónica is a private company, that does what le de la gana, as they say here. If they don't feel like installing more phone lines, they don't have to. The fact that a for-profit organization chooses not to provide service to a potential customer is beyond me.

The less-than-desirable solution we've found, which we knew of all along but were trying to avoid, is Instanet, an internet service that operates without a phone line. It's overpriced and offers a fraction of the speed we wanted (30€/month + 60€ to start for an average of 1-3 Mbps). But with our only other option being moving to a new place, breaking our contract, and losing a month of rent in the deposit, I'll take it.

I Skyped with my family this weekend for the first time in ages, and that's all that really matters now. Now I can do important things like pick out the wrapping paper for my Christmas presents from my mom's selection, and watch the cat attack the Christmas tree in my parents' house.