Data: The Next Shortage

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Last week  Nicolás Maduro ordered CONATEL, the telecoms regulator, to reverse a hike in data charges it had already announced. A dakazo for Internet service, pues.

Can you guess what’s coming next?

Come on, this one is easy! What inevitably follows when you announce ridiculous price controls?

Shortages. Of course!

It’s the smoke that comes with the bonfire.

Bandwidth is already in short supply. Last year, I tried to get Inter’s top-of-the-line plan, advertised as a measly 10 Mbps service (but much better than Venezuela’s average, which is the slowest in the region). It was not to be: the infrastructure is such in dire shape that they’re unable to secure “high” speeds for new subscribers, so I had to settle for the unspeakably retrograde 1 Mbps. Most days, I was lucky if I could get a 0.7 Mbps link.

I’m an internet entrepreneur, I can no more do my work on a 0.7 Mbps connection than a Michellin chef can cook a meal out of a CLAPs bag.

But things can always get worse, and so they will. Much worse.

In this somber read, Corina P.H. tells stories of service outages at home, low speeds on mobile networks and the inevitable loss of productivity in its wake.

Yesterday, the government suspended the rate hikes applying to all telecoms in Venezuela, including the state-owned ones. The proposed hikes were harsh in relation to average salaries, yet still not enough to cover the investment and maintenance costs for the platforms that these companies need to allow us to communicate. Over the last few months our budget’s gotten so tight it’s barely worth calling a budget anymore. Time and again we’ve had to choose between clothes and food, books and food, pens and food, toiletries and food, movie tickets and food, a gift for someone close to us on a very special occasion and food, and every single time we’ve had no choice but to defer any other expense and choose food, which even then is not enough. The new rates implied significantly reducing our data usage and our pay TV subscription, all so we could keep kind of eating. But we’re no fools, and now that the government has clawed it backs rather than relief we’re terrified — pardon, I meant “scared” — that rather than fewer data we’ll be left without any kind of link to the world at all.

If this happens — and I’m sure it will, if things keep going the way they have been — I will no longer know what’s happening beyond my parish, let alone my city, my country or the rest of the world. I will no longer be able to turn to Google to settle any banal question that comes up, and we’ll be left behind from this marvellous knowledge society that we belong to thanks to the internet. I’ll lose contact with many of my loved ones, relatives and friends who now live outside Venezuela. Not only will I have no internet, but they won’t even be able to call me (international phone calls have already been suspended for mobile phones, we’re barely able to call a few destinations from landlines.) And all this will happen without the others, those abroad, even noticing.

She braces for a very dark, but very possible future where Venezuelans will progresively vanish from the Internet. Where they’ll share fewer stories, where it gets harder and harder for their loved ones abroad to reach them.

Alas, this seems not to be on the radar for many people who took to Twitter to celebrate Maduro’s populist initiative, too brainwashed to put two and two together.

Wake up, brothers, the evidence is staring you in the face.

Now that’s a legacy worthy of “Comandante Eterno” status.

18 COMMENTS

  1. I tried to make that argument with a smart person that hates the government, he got mad at me and said that the UN made Internet access a human right. “Yo no defiendo ladrones” (Movistar)

  2. Doesn’t it seem obvious? Cutting everybody from internet access is the following logical thing after taking over TV stations, Radio, Newspapers … internet is the following thing

    • I don’t think this is a policy of any kind. Perhaps it was deliberate at some point, but now it’s pure and utter negligence and incapacity, coupled with years of foreign exchange controls that effectively crippled the companies’ capacity to maintain their systems running. Telecom malfunctions also undermine the government’s ability to control events, so it’s not at all in their best interest or anyone’s.

  3. That stupid guy’s tweet is Latin America’s psyche in a nutshell. The day that we ask for more competitors in order to reduce prices rather than price controls we will have a chance. Decades and decades of marxist indoctrination at schools and universities destroy more than bombs.

  4. We pay for 10 mbs download from CANTV ABA here in Margarita.
    Since late July the speed has dropped from an average of 8.5 mbs to around 1.5 mbs.
    Also almost every time I reboot the modem trying to see if that would fix it they switch IPs on me – 11 times since July 27.

    I’ve called CANTV 3 times and their answer is that the platform has a problem and they can’t take our complaint nor can they tell me when it will be corrected.

    I’d be interested to hear from other people who live in Venezuela to see if this problem is just here in Margarita or if it’s general in the rest of the country.

  5. “Alas, this seems not to be on the radar for many people who took to Twitter to celebrate Maduro’s populist initiative, too brainwashed to put two and two together.”

    Indeed. I overheard my sra telling someone that those rate hikes were outrageous and in effect, speaking positively of his actions. When I calmly explained that the current rates we’re paying amount to less than a dollar a month and that no company, especially those not getting dollars at preferrential rates, can maintain their service with such funding, we’ll all be without service soon enough. My pueblo has been without service for digitel for almost a month now. I’m not convinced it’ll ever return.

    Of course, like so many other things in this country that appear beyond reason to logically-thinking individuals, this action is just another in a series of steps by the government to isolate the population and emasculate its ability to respond when they’ve finally had enough.

    It’s bleak and getting bleaker by the day.

  6. I wonder if these idiots in Miraflores realize that if they completely break the internet, that the entire economy will stop. We all use debit cards to pay for everything. The cash in our pockets is only good for tips and the most trivial of goods. We pay for lunch or even a coffee with debit cards instead of cash. If the internet gets so bad that the “puntos de venta” won’t work (and they are already very slow) we are screwed. Money will simply stop moving and most commerce will stop. And that is without considering all of our other dependencies on internet based communications.

    • Roy, I believe that most debit card terminals work connected to a phone line, they send information through telephone lines. There are some that work through GPRS (like a cellular phone), those usually have an antenna

  7. I dont believe that our Political Masters think of the practical implications of their demagogic decisions , they just see that politically it helps their popularity if they keep prices as low as possible …..and blame the private service providers for being greedy…….., all their thinking is guided by short term partisan and political considerations …..even if later the consequences are terrible for everybody !! Its happened before , govts lack any sense of responsability because they only prize what can keep them in power and that means doing everything that can help them gain or retain popularity …..on the cheap!!

    That may be the feature that distinguishes populist govt their irreponsibility in taking decisions that short term help their popularity but ultimately and in the end bring on disasters that impoverishes every ones quality of life…!!

    • I think that it goes deeper even than that. I think that they honestly do not see any connection between the production of goods and services and hard work, talent, and education. In their minds, a factory or farm, or even a public utility, in their hands will automatically produce what it will in the hands of others. They do not see capital and capital goods as something that were produced from nothing, but as something that exists in nature.

      • I cant help but agree to your very acute observation , looking deeper into their mind set , its not that they dont care about the implications but that they are self programmed not to even think of the implications because they feel that anything they do or decide to do whilst inspired by their grand ideals is invested with a magic quality that makes for an absolutely perfect result without need for any further effort or concern on their part .

        These suggests that their thinking has a wiff of the magical and omnipotent , simply because of the grandiosity of the ideals that inspire their behaviour …

        Great point Roy, thanks for bringing it up !!

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