Monday, January 12, 2015

Modem madness

Sadly, I did not take advantage of the days when I had wifi in Guatemala City and Olintepeque, and now I find myself with very little internet access now that I have gotten started blogging again.

 For the last several years I have been able to have easy access to the internet because cell phone carriers in Guatemala, like those in some other developing countries, have developed easy-to-use USB modems, which means that anywhere there is a cellphone signal, you can plug in one of those modems and be online shortly. Once during tne 2011 presidential campaign I got stuck in trying to pass through a town where there was a political rally underway. There was only one through road and traffic was completedly stopped and there was nowhere else to go. So I pulled out my laptop, plugged in my modem, and set to work.

I brought my modem with me but I didn´t need to use it for the first week since I was staying with friends who had wifi, and so this morning as I prepared to leave for Santa Eulalia and Barillas in Huehuetenango, where my friends do not have wifi, I went to the cell phone company to check out my modem. I thought maybe I would need to buy a new SIM card in case mine had expired -- the one in my phone was still working, which was a pleasant surprise as I didn't have to get a new one. There are cell phone kiosks (not full service stores) in many shopping centers and commercial areas and so I talked to someone at one of the Tigo kiosks when I was out having a cup of tea with a friend yesterday. She told me I had to go the main store, which is in one of the biggest shopping centers in Xela. So, this morning I set out in the opposite direction of the road that would take me to Huehuetenango and managed to find the shopping center. The street it is on is crowded with stores and centros comerciales (shopping centers -- mostly strip malls) and the sign announcing Pradera Xela is set back quite a bit from the road so I missed it the first time and had to do some complicated manuevering to get back (it's a divided road, and there aren't any easy places to go around the block). The young woman to whom I was assigned took a look at my modem and said the modem was fine (she plugged it into a different machine) and we tried it in my machine but kept getting an error message saying that the application quit unexpectedly. She went to talk to a technician. He told her the modem was not configured for my operating system. She brought me the newer modem that they have but that, too, didn´t work. We checked: it is compatible with Mac OSX 10.8 and 10.9. I have Mac OSX 10.10.1    The only option was a regular wifi modem that would not be mobile. It has to be plugged in, and it costs nearly $100.  I then went to the two competitors, Claro and Movistar, and found out that all their modems were only compatible with OSX 10.8 and 10.9. No one has a modem that is compatible with the more recent operating systems.

So, for the moment, the only way I can get online is to use someone else´s computer and their modem (and of course pay for the airtime, many of my friends here don´t have monthly plans but buy airtime by the day when they need it). Kind of like loosies. By the way, loosies are probably the main way that people in much of Latin America buy cigarettes, especially the rural and urban poor, as few people have the money to buy full packs of cigarettes. And few people have cell phone plans. They purchase air time as their funds permit. 

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