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…