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Getting a signal

When I moved into my new house, back in 2005, there was no Internet connection.

Well, there was a connection, but it was really slow, traveling along the single-stranded copper wires installed sometime in the late 20th century and not updated since that installment. Well into the 21st century I found that my neighbors who did have Internet were still waiting for that noisy telephone connection to hook up and then waiting minutes for a page to load.

A governmental program for bringing Internet to small villages, villages that were almost off the grid for even basic telephone service, included installing a telecenter, a kind of Internet café. However, in my village they had only gotten as far as installing some tables and setting a half-dozen second-hand computers on those tables. There was no Internet, despite all the posters in the room touting the new "Rural Internet" program meant to digitalize rural communities.

When I went to the city hall to find out when the Internet would be connected, they told me that they had sent in the paperwork to the Provincial Government and were waiting for an answer. How long ago?, I asked. It had been over six months.

So I went on down to the Provincial Government and asked, and it turns out that the city hall had answered one of the questions on the application in a way that made it seem that the city hall would hook up to the telephone company by itself, while the city hall was waiting for the province to make the connection. It was one of those red-tape "yes" means "no" / "no" means "yes" questions to make sure that red tape is pulled slowly through the machinery. I went back to the city hall and asked them to fix that answer, and just a week later there was a connection to Internet in my village.

For a couple of years the signal was only strong enough to work on those older computers in the telecenter. We're talking about computers still running the XP OS! In 2006! Then a friend gave me a computer with a small antenna and I found that if I put that antenna in the upper bedroom window, I could capture part of that telecenter WIFI signal at home. But what happens if the signal goes down?

The village signal is satellite. That means that if there is a lot of stormy weather or wind, the signal gets blown away. And because the service is paid for by the government, seems like the service provider has installed one of the cheapest routers on the market. So, the router goes down often.

And there is no one in the village who is responsible for keeping the service online 24/7. So, I get up in the morning and sit down to the computer to begin my WFH activity and, look! There is no signal!

At first, I had to cross the village and ask this unpleasant lady to lend me the key to the telecenter. She always gave it to me, but never with a smile, usually with a complaint. She did try to refuse to give me the key once because it was the fall festival in the village and she didn't want me to have access to all the soft drinks and party stuff stored in the same building. Didn't work, I insisted and she lent me the key. Another neighbor, kind of a new-hippie guy, told me that she had refused to give him the key for the same reasons.

And that reason was simple. You've probably done it yourself. You unplug the router, you count to twenty, you plug it back in. That's all there is to it. Not rocket science, not even computer science.

That unpleasant lady finally retired and moved away, so I had to get the key from the lady who tended the bar in town. She was pleasant and considered it part of her job, she also cleaned the city hall and the doctor's office once a week, and opened the telecenter for the occasional Internet class.

Then that pleasant lady got fed up with the job and now it's my next-door neighbor who has the key. He's the guy who gets paid to make sure that basic services in the village work, like recycled garbage pick-up and the water tower and the street drains cleaned. He's not a bad guy, we've been on good terms for years, but he doesn't understand what Internet is and doesn't know why I need the key to go unplug the router so that the signal will work.

I've asked several local bureaucrats, from the mayor of the city hall to our local sub-mayor, to the service provider, to the provincial government if they could either name someone as responsible to make sure the service is right, or just give me a key and let me make sure it's right. For heaven's sake, there is nothing in that room that I want or need, I would not do anything to prejudice the service, I'd just always be available (as others are not!) to make sure that that router can be unplugged and plugged back in, or call the provider to come do necessary service. No way José.

I'll probably end up paying for my own connection. For now, the "free" connection works fine, but there will come the day when I'm just tired of running around the town looking for the key that opens the door to an otherwise scarcely used room. Oh well! I chose to live in this bureaucratic nightmare that is Spain.

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