My year without Internet: A #TropicalMierda saga

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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.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. In the 14 years that passed since I moved to Spain, I went from a dial-up 56kbps internet to ADSL of speeds ranging from 256kbps moving then progressively towards 20s megabits to finally fiber-to-the-home of symmetric 300 megabits.

    Meanwhile speeds in Venezuela haven’t changed that much since I had ABA (and that was in the late 90s for fucks sake), unbelievable.

  2. We have 2 CANTV lines – one in the business name and one in my personal name. Fortunately the ABA is on my personal line.

    On Dec. 2 our business line stopped working. No tone.
    After reporting it every week and visiting the local office it still isn’t working.

  3. This reminds me: last week I upgraded my ABA service, from 1,5 Mbps to 4 Mbps, the highest available in my area. Turns out the thing is dirt-cheap, probably costs the same as a popsicle.

    http://www.cantv.com.ve/seccion.asp?pid=1&sid=1377&id=1&und=1&cat=item_ig&item=item_2&item_name=Planes%20y%20Precios

    The first day was awesome, I could finally watch YouTube in 720p, even 1080p sometimes, it felt as if I had unlocked the internet. The second day, the weekend came, and the thing went back to normal slow. I assumed it was going to be like that for the weekends only, when the demand is higher, buy in Monday the the thing was still as slow as ever.

    Its Thursday already, I’m still waiting. Every once in a while I fire up YouTube to check if it went back to its former day-one glory. No luck yet

    • Here’s a hint with ABA. When it slows down unplug the CANTV modem and reboot it. This usually changes the IP and speeds things up.

      If you are using an additional Wi-Fi modem after your CANTV modem do the same with it.
      Also helps to unplug the Internet line from the W-Fi modem until the CANTV modem is reconnected and then plug it back in.

      Doesn’t work every time but often enough to try it out.

  4. At least you have the opportunity (and some hope) for phone and internet service (if you could find the cash to pay). My Brother-in-law lives in San Joaquin. They had both phone and internet until recently when the major cables connecting their entire sub-division were stolen by some thieves. Now no one in their area has Telephone or internet. There is no hope that the cables will be replaced in their life time.

  5. I have been on the “waiting list” for a CANTV line for about three and half years. They say that there are no new lines available in my zone. About a year ago, I noticed CANTV workers were working on a terminal box next to my building, so I stopped and inquired. They were changing out the terminal box and pulling a new cable. I was so happy! At last, I would get my landline and ABA. When I saw the workers pulling the new cable, I stopped again to ask about it. To my dismay, they were only replacing the previous 100-pair cable with another one. They could have installed a 200-pair cable for an additional small fraction of the cost of the work. I asked why… stupid me… I just got the rolled eyes, condescending, “do you really need to ask?” look.

  6. Howdy, Astrid! Great article. One thing called to me, they actually told you in other services that they had no availability and no dollars?? I’ve had issues with Inter for about two years now, I even lost my internet for a week las month (while still paying for it) without any credible explanation from their customer service. They’ve blatantly lied to me about the issue, or about sending IT support. The level of sincerity you got is astonishing in comparison.

    Needless to say, I hear you, pal.

    • Hi Javier! I’m happy you liked it.

      At INTER they got so sincere it hurted. The lady said “Buy the cable modem from someone not using it anymore or get it in the blackmarket”.

      Auch. I could buy either a CANTV line or the Inter thing, but the fact is they ask for waaaay too much money, I can take a bit of bajarmedelamulaism but not as much as they ask.

  7. Did I read this wrong? All you need is a modem? Can no-one send it to you by mail? If possible, I will consider sending one to you. let me know

  8. hahaha!

    Incredibly true, perfectly depicted.
    Recently I had a sort of the same problem in my apartment, for some reason the internal-cable-phone of the building got damaged. After calling many times to CANTV for support service (including the hours left on HOLD) a guy finally payed a visit to “fix” the problem, I got the same answer: a “private contractor” must do the job (that means HIMSELF). Fortunately (for me) it seems that in my building I was the first one to call CANTV also I had a long enough wire needed for being replaced. So I did not “pay” too much for “the service”. Soon after some neighbors, apparently with the same problem, realized the CANTV guy was there so they asked him to get the same “fix”, then they got the same answer but, to my surprise, the price raised exponentially.
    We are all diving in this #tropicalmierda, thanks for sharing, at least it feels like I am not alone.

    Good luck Astrid.

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