My Polish internet hell

I have the world’s worst internet connection. It costs me 50 zl a month and is slightly less reliable than a Nigerian oil millionaire who wants to use your bank account. Frankly it would be quicker to write Google searches on handmade parchment and post them to California. I can get quicker results by shouting questions out of the window in the hope that a passerby knows the answer and speaks English.

My internet connection is very similar to the kind of internet connection you are probably familiar with. I get a shiny wi-fi router with blinking lights, unsightly cables hanging out of my window and, of course, a monthly bill. The only difference between my internet connection and the kind you’re familiar with is the fact that mine doesn’t appear to be connected to the internet. I think it works like this:

1. I type a search query into Google;

2. My query is printed out in the back room of my “service provider;”

3. A man who knows the answer comes on a bicycle from Szczecin and types up the results;

4. My “service provider” has a cup of tea and takes a short holiday in the mountains;

5. I get the result of my Google search.

This is when it’s working. Most of the time it’s just dead. Like now. I’m writing this offline. Tomorrow or in a couple of days time some guy will turn up, fiddle around on the roof for a few minutes and then inform me everything is fixed. He will be lying.

It’s nice to think that my “service provider” might read this and be consumed with shame, but I doubt it. I’m not convinced he even knows what or where the internet is, let alone how to read Poland’s premiere blog on it.

Why does this happen? Because I belong to one of these weird local internet providers. Thousands of these one-man companies exist all over Poland. They provide connections to a couple of hundred people on two or three streets via a ramshackle arrangement of microwave transmitters and receivers perched on roofs. How do these businesses keep going? Because there are no phone lines in these buildings. I live about half a kilometer from the center of a major European city in a building that has no phones. Check the century on your calendar and read that last sentence again.

I admit I’m exaggerating slightly, there are some phone lines in this building. The building administrator has one (miraculous!) and the old lady in the flat next to me who can’t hear it ringing has one. Nobody else though. They’ve asked for them but, apparently, connecting city-center buildings to the last century’s favorite mode of communication is not a priority.

One day, if I’m really lucky, I will get a phone line and then I can get a tp internet connections! I hear they are really good…

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22 thoughts on “My Polish internet hell

  1. Pioro-Boncza says:

    I have lived in DE, NL, USA, CN, and HK and I have to admit my Aster connection is the best I have ever had…no joke. Even my best friend from NYC who defines the term ‘power user’ was very impressed on his visit to Warszawa. I have heard, however, that I am in a clear minority. Aster is the first Polish company that I can wholeheartedly recommend. Even their customer service is so downright friendly that they will even make the occasional light joke with you (where am I?? Warsaw, Mars???)!!

  2. jacek_placek says:

    c`mon, it’s not that bad ;)

  3. scatts says:

    Pioro clearly deals with a very different Aster office to the one on Jana Pawla II in Warsaw! I also have it on good authority that the Aster city email service is a lot of smelly pants so if you do get Aster internet then pass on the email option. Thankfully I no longer have any dealings with Aster for my TV. I’ve moved to a whole new level of incompetence with Cyfrowy Polsat.

    For internet I’ve always used TPSA neostrada. The company is sick, very very sick. Neostrada though, works very well indeed. If you can manage to get it working at all and if you have a reasonably good phone line. After an extremely painful time getting a connection in the first place, outlined on my blog at length, I now have connection via a D-Link router and I am very happy with it. Our apartment is simply awash with 2Mb webjuice, an oasis of internet connectivity by cable and by wi-fi.

    The trouble connecting is not confined to me though. A friend lives in the old town opposite the Warsaw Cathedral. He’s been trying to connect for about 2 months now. First problem was the line, that’s supposedly now fixed. Second problem was the XP disc included with the modem (he has Vista). Now the Vista disc won’t work either. He’s giving up for 2008 and will try again in the new year.

    Island – can’t you just insist that TPSA connect you? Or try Netia perhaps? I heard they were good in Krakow. Alternatively, these cards you shove in your laptop are good, better than what you have for sure. That’s either Era Blue Connect or the i Plus version. I heard i Plus was better of those two. Might cost a little more but will be pretty reliable until you get a proper phone connection.

  4. MaterialGirl says:

    Today evening I’m setting out on Christmas.
    Whole fortnight free!

    So, first of all I would like to thank you

    Michael Farris

    who only 1 support my idea.
    He was so vulgar as possible.

    island1
    Jamie I ador your malices directed to me more or less knowlingly.
    Hope you will fin true love (I agree with 1 of the girls, some had hurt you).

    Girls be so clever and wise as you are.

    For those who have to small TV screens, cars or parts of organism
    I wish: “have the biggest in your neighbourhood”.

    For all of us: “everyday do something good”.

    Lovely Zosia – grow up wisely.
    To cat Nelson I wish to find its Emma.

    Next, we will be together dancing cancan in “Moulin Rouge”. I as “Lady Marmelade”. ;)

  5. My wife and I pay a boatload to UPC but our connection is stable – though we do occasionally have an outage, I would say once every few months for an hour or less – and fast. Our downloads peak around 850 – 1100 KB/sec, though it really has to be from a fairly local source. Uploads are much slower and I don’t think I’ve seen them go above 150 KB/sec.

    Our IP addresses are public but dynamically assigned, though they only have changed two or three times in the last year. I don’t need to VNC or otherwise remotely access my laptop but it is nice to at least have that possibility open.

  6. scatts says:

    Material Girl – have yourself a fantastic Christmas and we hope to see you back (in whatever disguise) in 2009!!

  7. guest says:

    It is too early for christmas wishes. Do not hurry !

  8. Bob says:

    Scatts – with 2mb flying through your apartment you are hopefully wearing tin hats or at least sunglasses! We have neostrada and it has been like the movie the “Agony and the Ecstasy” When there is a problem it is excruciating to have it repaired, it is like the Polish version of the Three Stooges dealing with TPSA. When it works, which very fortunately is the vast majority of the time, we have a good quality 1mb download service (upload is about 256 or so which is fine for our needs)

    We had major hoops to jump through to get it installed as we were at the fare end of the amplifier cascade from the local switching office therefore the signal strength was poor. After a significant amount of cajoling, arm twisting, being nice and being threatening I got what I wanted. (anybody who wants in on some of the secrets just post your interest and an email addy and I’ll contact you and give you some tips on how to successfully deal with TPSA)

  9. Margot says:

    That’s interesting… My mom has UPC cable connection in Poland, I have one in Ireland. She pays quite a lot, but her DSL line is very stable and she gets really the speed she’s paying for.
    I have UPC in Dublin and not only we’re paying a lot, but also it’s so slow during weekends that it’s impossible to watch youtube without pausing and loading video first (which also takes a while).
    What’s more, the UPC line I’ve got is the best one can get in Dublin anyway. Eircom and BT are even worse than UPC. Seriously, man, ISP market in Poland is really better than one may think. Now, living in Ireland, I started appreciating it.

  10. mikh uk says:

    Do not moan mate – just CHANGE your provider :-)
    (I’ve seen here a polish influence ,seriously…)

    In glorious and famous polish capital cite ;-))) you can use 3G speed mobile broadband – a piece of cake !

    BTW – Do YOU apply for a telephone line from BT… ehmmm… TP :-))) ?
    Try it :-)

    Bests
    Mikh

  11. DC says:

    @scatts

    Your friend’s Vista misery is yet another argument for Mac. Seemingly unsolvable problems that end up taking countless hours to fix are far far less common with Mac. It just works.

  12. island1 says:

    Lots of good advice here, though most of it ignores the fact that I don’t have a phone line (except Scatts).

    MaterialGirl, who was that mysterious woman?

    mikh uk: But I LIKE moaning :)

    jacek_placek: Yes it is that bad.

  13. cracovianka says:

    could you not get GHNet in Krakow to set you up with a connection? their customer service is a a bit too laid back for my liking but they’re pretty good. And, at least in my building, you don’t need a phone line.

  14. guest says:

    Bristol bus driver hands in £3,000

    Friday, December 19, 2008, 07:00

    21 readers have commented on this story.
    Click here to read their views.

    An honest Bristol bus driver handed in £2,750 in cash found in a bag which was left on his vehicle.

    Grzegorz Ksiazczyk was driving his number 21 bus from Westbury-on-Trym to Broadmead when passengers told him an elderly woman had left a bag on a seat.

    He opened it and found it contained £2,750 – the woman’s money to buy Christmas presents.

    He did not hesitate in handing in the money, and within hours the woman, who asked not to be identified, was reunited with her missing cash.

    “Another passenger told me a bag had been left behind so I put it to one side,” said Grzegorz, 48, who lives in Whitchurch after moving to Bristol from Poland two years ago.

    “When I opened it I saw there was some money in it, and then I realised it was actually full of cash.

    “I couldn’t believe someone could leave that kind of money on a bus.

    “I’m just glad we were able to get it back to her, especially at Christmas.

    “A couple of days ago I found a wallet with £120 in it, and last weekend I had to call an ambulance after an elderly passenger collapsed on a service 75, so it’s never boring.”

    The woman had just drawn the cash out of the bank in the village but on her way to the city centre felt ill and went home.

    She only realised she no longer had the bag with her when she reached her front door.

    A neighbour went to nearby Muller Road bus depot for help while the woman reported her loss at Southmead police station.

    She thanked Grzegorz for his honesty in taking her money to Hengrove bus depot last Wednesday night, where First Bus’s inspector Mark Clouter and Hengrove vehicle allocator Tim Leigh were calling drivers and liaising with police.

    They rang the neighbour to tell her the bag and cash had been found and confirmed the passenger’s identity before handing back the bag.

    The woman said: “The staff from First and the police were fantastic.

    “I was sick with worry when I realised I’d left the bag behind and I thought there was every chance I’d never see the money again.

    “But they kept it safe for me at Hengrove bus depot and made sure I got it back.

    “I can’t thank them enough. I use the bus all the time and all the drivers know me – since this happened they’ve all been telling me to keep hold of my handbag.”

    First Bristol, Somerset and Avon managing director Justin Davies said: “Our staff help reunite passengers with all kinds of lost property every week, from handbags to cuddly toys, and I’m delighted our staff were able to help this lady.

    “This is a huge amount of money to lose at any time of year, but it must have been especially distressing so close to Christmas.

    “These staff handled the situation in the professional manner we expect, and helped make Christmas brighter for one of our customers.”

  15. Ania says:

    Small private web providers – I know one, and I know why his network is down every week… I’ll tell you: it’s BAD LUCK and lots of it ;)

    I’ve tried getting internet from Dialog, but failed – the kamienica is protected as heritage, so no hole drilling. We had to use Toya cable TV, best value for money… it’s just that they would at times switch it of… So now in the office there is cable TP, and at home ISDN TP… And they work all right – but there is one thing I fail to understand – why I have to log in and activate to be able to use it !? I’ll tell you: red plague, that is. And TP is French anyways. Red plague.

    In the UK after winning with BT and having battled the BT serviceman to activate both phone sockets, we now have a land line. But I’d rather die than have their internet. We have be.com – nice little company, cheap and friendly. it’s just that sometimes they switch it off..

    MaterialGirl… what is the scolding for? The guys just ranted as usual…

  16. Henryk in Sydney says:

    Give Kevin Rudd a call……he can fix anything. Or, he can organise a committee to find out why there is a problem and how it can be fixed!

  17. island1: UPC provides internet access via a cable modem. While we do have a landline, it is irrelevant in this case. If you are having problems with phone-based internet access and cable TV is a possibility in your building I would suggest you check out UPC. If there’s no cable TV in your building then don’t underestimate the bandwidth of a car loaded with DVD’s.

  18. Anne Sophie Elisabeth Katarina says:

    Merry Christmas Jamie!
    love,
    Anne Sophie

  19. island1 says:

    I’ve been rubbish at responding to these comments, mainly because my internet wasn’t working… again.

    As we descend into the miasma of Christmas, I wish you all a merry one.

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