Opinion – Who would have thought that Ronald McDonald would have the fastest Internet in town? As I type this blog, I’m uploading at a decent 50 kilobytes per second, popping my email, eating a Big Mac and unfortunately getting eaten alive by mosquitoes in Pattaya Thailand. While the Internet speeds now may seem decent, the story was much different earlier in the day.
We often take decent Internet access for granted in the USA because many homes have DSL or Cable Internet connections. Restaurants, shops and even Jiffy Lube are adding Wi-Fi hotspots to attract high-tech customers. But in Thailand, the monthly DSL bill is a huge chunk of the average Thai worker’s salary.
So you’re probably thinking that I could find a free wireless access point somewhere, but almost all Wi-Fi spots use encryption. Additionally, stores with Wi-Fi will often turn their routers off when closing up shop. The reason for all of this is simple. Since Internet access costs so much, it makes sense to secure it for customers and not anyone sitting outside.
I did manage to find some open hotspots after hours of searching, but boy they were slow – I felt like I was back in the dial-up days where pages would take minutes to load. Now you notice strange things on slow connections that you wouldn’t back home. First, any automatic update will just brutalize your connection.
You know the culprits – Microsoft automatic update, Virus definition updates, security updates, Adobe updater and others programs were made with high-speed access in mind. The multi-megabyte files they download are just a minor inconvenience when you are on a fast line… a few seconds of pain and you’re done. But at some places in Thailand, and probably many third-world countries, you just want to stab your eyes out with a chopsticks while you wait.
So I go about turning off every automatic update I could find, but here’s another problem. Many programs won’t notify you when the updates are downloading. Even worse, many won’t let you disable the updates.
Thankfully most of the McDonalds in Thailand have very fast wireless Internet. It’s fast enough for Skype conversations, uploading large video files and even Bittorrent. And it seems to be great for business, judging by the number of laptop-toting foreigners in the place. I’m loving it… but it’s too bad the mosquitoes seems to like me.