Monday, February 1

Diapadion Hates the Internet - SA Edition

As any educated individual is aware, the modern world is rife with different internets. As it happens, the South African one sucks. 

If you were wondering why I was out of commission all weekend (you probably weren't), its was because I ran out of internet. This might not seem possible, but it is! The internet goes to new and unforeseen places in Africa. 

Allow me to run this down for you. In most of Africa, the mega-internet connection, which allows whole countries to be connected with the rest of the world, uses satellite technology. Pretty much everywhere else in the world, including North African countries like Egypt, giant underseas fibre optic cables do the heavy lifting because they are much much better than satellites.

Despite being one of the (if not the) most developed African nation, South Africa is still stuck with satellites. Overcoming massive geographic isolation just isn't an easy task. Have a look at a map of the world - we are out of the way. SA isn't quite at the Cape Horn extreme, but it is of the same magnitude. Yet, any day now they'll finish the big tube that will soon give Africa unrestrained access to the nets.

I don't live in that glorious future world. I live in the world where the tube is incomplete, and we in South Africa have to deal with reasonable and unreasonable restrictions on our internet use.

Firstly: bandwidth capping. Capping means that they limit the amount of total (not the rate) information you can upload and download, as opposed to the amount of time you spend connected. Standard monthly allotments run between 1 and 10 gigabytes. You can obtain uncapped accounts, but you have to pay out the wazoo for them.

Secondly, what if you run out of gigabytes? Well, you can "top up" your account with more "air time." You're paying for a minimum monthly allowance, but if you don't use it all, or if you buy extra and don't use that, its gone at the end of the month.

Let it be known that the majority of South African utilities use this system, electricity, water, gas, phones. I can't think of anyone I know, or even anyone I've met, who doesn't use a prepaid cellular phone.

Thirdly, all the connections are ADSL and slow as a raging sloth. Even a premium uncapped connection will be slow by American and European standards because of the satellite limitations.

These are generally things that just "have to be." Now I'll relate my most recent experience, which highlights things that suck and really don't need to suck.

The main service provider is Telkom. I hope they won't revoke my IP for trashing them. Go government subsidized monopolies! So that you do not get boned, Telkom have a service setup where they send you an email once a day letting you know what your remaining available bandwidth is. However, sometimes the emails just don't arrive. This, is bullshit. I could remotely setup a server to send reminder emails.

This would not be such a problem if it was not compounded with Telkom's other critical flaw. Even if you didn't get the emails, you could just run out of bandwidth, and then everything would stop. Then you'd just grumble for a few minutes, get some more bandwidth, and resume what you were doing. This is what you would think would happen.

Not so. When you run out of data each month, you are done. No more refills. You want more, you must get a new account. I just discovered this recently, much to my surprise, sooo... yeah. No internet for a few days until the new month. Fun times. So if you don't get an email, and don't know where you stand, you run out, and are done for the month.

Who thought that was a bright idea?

Being in the black wasn't all bad, of course. Internet draughts are okay (even refreshing) every now and then, but a SURPRISE draught is okay about once. In a post-millennium lifetime. Ever.

In summary, Telkom sucks and no one likes them. Some things are forgivable. Too many are not. I look forward to the day the fiber pipes come to South Africa, and real internet becomes available.

Meanwhile, the baboons didn't care and continued to swing around in pine trees, beat up on each other, and copulate.


  1. Maybe you should do a study on first addicting baboons to YouTube, then suddenly turning it off. (or, given the obvious technical limitations of your bandwidth situation... perhaps not.)

  2. We ALMOST did this in one of my old labs. To keep the animals from getting bored while we were setting things up, we'd show them YouTube videos.

    They really liked the nature programs, particularly whales, I think.