Walking Backwards Into the Future – One Man’s Anger

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In some ways, I am a very patient man.

“Hurry up, I need it now!” strategies have little chance of success in places such as PNG where you are up against the triple curses of turtle-paced introduction of world-wide available technology, anticompetitive pressures of vested interests, and a pervasive cultural attitude that the situation is hopeless and we may as well ‘do what we can’ and not complain.

When I become impatient to the point of pushiness is when my co-workers and (yikes!) my bosses begin to wonder if I know anything about what I am doing. (I sometimes wonder myself.)

The most irritating and common complaint that I have directed toward me is that people simply cannot do their work without a reliable internet connection, which they don’t have. How can I respond to this? “Sorry” just doesn’t do it anymore.

In today’s world, this is a complaint that cannot be dismissed by saying, “I’m doing the best that I can.” You simply must find a better way.

At my office, the combination of Telikom’s ever decaying capability to provide reliable service and our ISP’s apparent inability to do anything to improve the situation has led me to this: 

Stone age internet

That’s right. I can get more done at my house with a ten year old dialup modem on my very messy desk (maxing out at 28.8KBS) than I can at my office on a leased line costing thousands of Kina a month.

For the icing on the cake – I have to get my emailing done before 8:00 AM or forget it.

To me, this seems shameful. The funny bit (in the tragic sense) is that nobody seems to be ashamed of it.

Teiikom certainly shows no indications of apology or even acknowledgement of care of duty. Like PNG Power, the attitude, over time, has decayed to the point that the model is no longer continuous, reliable service. The model now is “count yourself lucky when we give it to you and don’t complain when we don’t.”

As an example (we’ll give Telikom a rest for a moment), when we first came to Madang, power outages were rare occurrences. We might experience a brief outage a couple of times a month on the average. Now we are experiencing many blackouts a day!

Getting back to Telikom, there is always a perfectly perplexing excuse why the throughput is so glacial. It is a new excuse every day. It seems that Telikom’s slogan is truer than we might desire. “Telikom – Always There” sounds catchy and hip. But, where we need it is here, not there!

The ISPs blame it all, of course, on Telikom. While this may be true in some respects, the ISPs seem happy to accept payments that are shameful by world standards for service that is ridiculous by the same standards while offering no alternative solutions themselves.

Telikom offers a VSAT (that’s a satellite dish that communicates directly with a geosynchronous satellite) that will give the customer broadband service. However the price is absurd – wait, absurd is not strong enough. When asked if they will offer anything for actual businesses that have a responsibility to act in a fiscally responsible manner (meaning not pounding money down a rat hole) the answer seems to be, “Maybe – someday.”

Our ISP (which out of kindness I will not name) offers no alternative VSAT solution.

But that is not the end of the story.

Telikom is actively suppressing new technology such as VSAT. Please don’t take my word for it. Try to get one from someone else. The song and dance routine will put you in stitches first. This will be followed shortly by a crying jag.

And there is more! Our ISP issues veiled threats that our purchase of a VSAT from a (non Telikom) PNG supplier is illegal and we will have multiple unspecified but supposedly scary problems if we purchase one.

The vendor of said VSAT equipment says that they have the legal situation in hand and there is no problem. They are happy to take our money with a smile and a promise that we will not have our equipment unceremoniously ripped out by enraged Telikom technicians. This promise is not offered in writing, mind you.

Smiles, handshakes, veiled threats, vague promises of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Who can you believe?

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but these kinds of shenanigans will raise suspicions in any reasonable person’s mind.

What is going on here?

My only option is to join the revolution.

Do you need a speedy, reliable internet connection to operate? Do you want to help man the barricades?

Call me, I’ll tell you how!

(DISCLAIMER: I freely admit that I am not aware of many details of what is going on concerning this situation. If I am incorrect or misinformed or even (horrors) disrespectful in any manner in this post, please, oh please, by all that’s good and fine and true, email to me a rebuttal and I promise that I will post it here. That would be more honourable that just bad-mouthing me.)

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5 Responses to “Walking Backwards Into the Future – One Man’s Anger”

  1. Walking Backwards Into the Future - One Man’s Anger Says:

    […] Original post by MadDog […]

  2. Robert@PNG Says:

    Hi MadDog,

    I share your frustration regarding the lack of access to decent internet in this country. Last year I did some research on behalf of Goroka General Hospital and found out the following:

    1) Most VSAT connections in PNG are illegal.

    2) The law says that one can subscribe to a VSAT service other than Telikom but only if Telikom is not able to supply VSAT in that location.

    3) Theoretically Telikom can supply VSAT to almost everywhere.

    4) In practice this is not the case.

    5) After discussions with the ICCC to try and get to the bottom of this – it would appear that the ICCC support Telikom’s notion that they can supply VSAT to almost everywhere.

    6) Yes – Telikom can install a VSAT dish but there are serious shortcomings regarding the services that they can provide to the customer. Eg; no fixed IP address.

    7) The Telikom prices remain exorbitant in comparison to the competitors.

    8) In the end the Hospital installed a 128kbps copper leased line. We will revisit the whole broadband thing once the Telikom, Government and ICCC get their act together. The 128 link when working – hums along quite nicely.

    9) I like to internet after hours and last month my phone bill was over K500 – that’s just for internet connection charges. PNG must be one of the last places on earth that still charge time calls for Internet!

    10) As long as Government retains a monopoly on data and telecommunications in PNG we’re not going to see any change. Besides, 1st they need to sort out the issues with the mobile market and then and only then will they take a closer look at data comms.

    10 things….

    Must have something to do with the decimal system!!!


  3. MadDog Says:

    Hi Robert,

    Thanks for your very excellent comments. They are much appreciated.

    They reflect pretty much exactly what I discovered when I checked into the situation a year ago.

    Here’s the information I received from the vendor last week (I paraphrase):

    Telikom is accepting all applications and depositing the cheques – K950 – for non-Telikom VSATs. They then issue a verbal tounge lashing which they refuse to put in writing. According to the vendor, this is because of a court order preventing Telikom from such anti-competitive practices (I don’t know how broad that order is nor do I have any way of corroborating the vendor’s claim).

    Therefore our vendor will accept our application, add it to the 650 or so others that have already been submitted (and the cheques deposited) and install our VSAT.

    Admittedly, this is risky. Manning the barricades always is.

    In Madang, the speed of a leased line is meaningless as long as it is enough to handle the users. The bottleneck comes in the form of all the various cobbled together microwave and satellite links connecting (or not) Madang to POM. If any one of these links is down, you’ll have no connection at all (like the last two weeks) or a few hundred bites per second leaking though some tiny backup hole somewhere (probably a fallback modem).

    I’m filling out my application today.

    Keep your comments coming, brother.


  4. LapunBilongMosby Says:

    I don’t know if you’re aware of it but, when the AFP were here as part of that wasted effort known as the ECP, they installed their own VSAT communications. That got up the pollies noses and the end result was, of course, the end of the AFP component of the ECP.

    At about the same time, Daltron installed their own VSAT and it wasn’t very long before they got raided by the cops. The VSAT gear was confiscated and, so far as I know, they’re still fighting a losing battle to get it back.

    Oh yeah… I’m responding from my very own exhorbitantly expensive, steam-driven internet connection and also suffering the same double whammy of “per minute” Telikom charges and, of course, the ISP charges that aren’t far behind. Adding insult to injury, I find that – all of a sudden – I can’t send e-mail to friends who have a “spam city” (i.e. Hotmail) account. It seems that Hotmail bounces mail that has a “pg” country of origin, so there’s yet another bonus of living here eh?

  5. MadDog Says:

    Thanks Lapun,

    Wow, that’s a complicated story.

    I’m trying to improve our situation (without saying exactly how in an open forum), while keeping a low profile.

    My job is on the line if I don’t get our shop a broadband connection.

    Business is not usually so risky here. The whole thing feels a little creepy to me, but my choices are no more plentiful than anybody else’s in PNG.

    By the way, good luck on the Hotmail issue. We’ve had the same problems.