Saturday, August 21, 2010

Internet Connections

It's time for another Lonely Planet blogsherpa carnival, this one hosted by Jason at Alpaca Suitcase.  The carnival goes live on August 25th and the subject this time is fellow travelers' experiences with Internet Connections.  The following is my submission from Libreville, Gabon on the west coast of Africa.


As someone who grew up in New York City, a decent internet connection is something you take for granted.  If you're not paying for a high speed, broadband connection through your cable provider, you are "borrowing" one from your neighbor.  Otherwise, you can just walk up the block to the Starbuck's or the Barnes & Noble...even Central Park was outfitted with free wi-fi before the recession.  This is simply not the case in Libreville.


Internet access was achieved via two options, satellite or through the phone "system", there is no cable in Gabon.  Satellite was certainly the least expensive, but since the connection is weak and greatly affected by the weather, a better option would have been to use a box of old newspapers and magazines for search and two tins cans and some string for email.


Achieving internet access through the phone lines was the best option.  It worked 65% of the time and the connection was fast enough to bring up most websites.  Although, if you wanted to view that 3 minute video that your friends were sending around, it could take 45 minutes to download.  Of course, if you lost the connection in the middle, you would have to start the download all over again.


Electricity was another challenge.  The U.S. Embassy compound where I lived had a large generator system.  Whenever the electricity went out, which could be frequent, the generator would take less than 2 seconds to kick in.  Of course, since our internet provider did not have a generator, the fact that our lights and A/C kept running had nothing to do with maintaining an internet connection...back to the tins cans and some string.


Everyone talks about how wonderful skype is, especially when traveling.  Those people have never been to Gabon.  The one time that I was able to connect, with both voice and video, the time delay was more than 4 minutes.  Try talking to your parents with a 4 minute delay...not so wonderful.


Despite my complaining about the connection in Libreville, I was able to keep contact with friends at home, do research for work and maintain this blog.  I suppose it's just like anything else, it takes a little getting used to.


Please visit Alpaca Suitcase on August 25th to check out all of the entries for the Lonely Planet blogsherpa Carnival, Internet Connections.  Thanks

3 comments:

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  2. Interesting, I didn't know that satellite connections would be susceptible to the weather - satellites were always my mental back-up plan if we were ever to decide to settle down somewhere that didn't have a good connection otherwise - Oh well, another dream down the pan.

    I tried Skype in India a few times. Up in the far north-east where the internet connection was a bit slow, the conversation was pretty much as you described, with the words "sorry, what was that again?" being used a lot.

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  3. David, I thought the same about satellite. Libreville is on the coast and the sky moves in fast and thick. Whenever we had big storms (every few evenings) the only channel received was CNN. ??

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