My year without Internet: A #TropicalMierda saga

In 2011, the United Nations declared internet access a Human Right, but news never made it to Venezuela. Maybe it’s still buffering.

When I had to move out of my old apartment about a year ago, I had two priorities: Cable and WiFi (priorities always). So I went ahead and paid my friends at CANTV a visit, and it was not fun.

The tiny office was crowded. Surprisingly, there were no Maduro or Chávez posters around. I got in line — two hours later, I got to talk to one of the seven or so lovely ladies, in their late 50’s, who run the place. I was thrilled.

“How can I help you, ma’am?”

“I’d like to move my telephone line out of my old apartment, I’m moving out”

She then asked where my line was and where I’d like to move it to: I was in trouble.

“You can’t move your line to that area, you’ll need a new line”

Cristo atado, a new phone line, I could hear funeral songs playing in my head. That was it, no internet for me. But, it couldn’t be that bad right? A new line, then a new modem, then internet access. Voilà!

After jumping through a number of hoops (like the fact that you need to know a neighbor’s phone number to ask for your own new number) I filed the request for a new phone line. I moved into my new place and waited patiently.  All things I’d come to love and take for granted, like Spotify and music and movies (I won’t say Netflix, because seriously, how does one use Netflix with such crappy Internet speed) began fading from view.

After two months, it was like I had just exited rehab. I still had no internet, and I needed my fix, so I decided to solve this in the most socialist, #Tropicalmierda way I knew: Finding someone I could bribe. I mean, this is the kind of problem bribery was invented to solve, right?  

“I know a guy who knows a guy, I’ll call him” my dad said. Two days later I got a call from the CANTV tech guys saying they were coming. Works every time.

They got to my building, did some tests with a huge phone that looked like it was taken out of Dynasty, and said.

Chica, your line is here but getting it all the way to your apartment is not our job because the wiring needs fixing, you’ll need a private contractor for that.”

Oh that’s just great, #TropicalMierda just keeps on giving.

“Ok, do you know a private contractor who could come and fix this?”

“Yes, here’s my number, I can stop by first thing tomorrow.”

Seriously? It was a naked shakedown, but what choice did I have? I called him, he arrived, and fixed the thing. It was about 20 dollars at SIMADI rate. My phone finally had a tone. Still, no internet.

“You have to make the ABA (broadband) request directly to our call center,” the guy said.

No hyperbole here, it took about three hours on hold before an actual human came on the line.  “Ma’am, we are not taking any ABA requests at the moment, please call again in a few days.”  

I was boiling. No ABA for me. But surely I could get internet services from any other provider, right? Nope. I hit every Cable/Internet company in town and got the same answer everywhere.

“We are not currently offering internet services due to shortage of equipment and materials.”

“The government is not giving us dollars.”

“If you know someone who can sell their cable-modem to you we’ll set it up.”

Well, fuck me, right?

If internet democratization is the reason why it sucks so much, why couldn’t I get my fair share of socialist, solo es posible en Chavismo, crappy ABA?! If there was a WiFi para todos program, why wasn’t I part of the everyone? I decided to pay yet another visit to my friends at the CANTV offices. Once there, I had to wait yet another two hours to get my request placed.

When I sat again at the lady’s desk, she was absolutely rude after I asked “Do you have a supervisor I can talk to?” She asked if I had a college degree, because to her, me not understanding the whole “Make the request online” part (while having no internet access) meant I had to be stupid.

I placed my request for ABA service, but was told there were no empty slots to provide service in my area of residence. Whatever that means.

Last week, a neighbor offered to sell his CANTV line with ABA access through the building’s WhatsApp group (god bless WhatsApp). And of course I got super excited. I might actually fix my problem! There was a catch: Money.

The guy asked for 360.000 BsF. That, my friends, is about 3 times my monthly income, about $500 at the SIMADI rate and way more than I could afford.

So, I did the math: This guy had payed about Bs.4.303,19 to get his modem thanks to el comandante Chávez at CANTV. Let’s say he had to bribe people as I did to get the phone line. Still, he makes about a dozillion% profit on this deal. But heck, you know as well as I do life in Venezuela is not really about price, it’s about value.

The very same modem being given by the grace of Maduro at CANTV gets sold at twenty two times its price on the black market and a similar type costs about $75 on Amazon (about Bs.52,000, at the SIMADI rate) CANTV is left a few bucks short, that’s the way you bleed a country into bankruptcy. (Oh, marvelous Chavismo comunismo)

Seems to me the reason I don’t have internet is the same reason everything happens around here. Just one of many #TropicalMierda stories.

The other day a friend asked, “when will you get ABA”?

“Maybe next year,” I said.

Astrid Cantor

Head of the Church of Martha Stewart: I bake therefore I am. Táchirense: Almojabana and quesadilla lover, "toche" and "juemadre" user. Pastelitos de queso con bocadillo fanatic and overall gochadas supporter. Also doctor —as in proper MD— and pobresora universitaria too.