Acrobat Internet Providers

When I woke up this morning I had no idea the circus had come to town. But sure enough as I walked outside I was greeted by some amazing acrobats. I mean, these guys made the Flying Melinda Brothers I saw as a kid in a Ringling Brother’s show many years ago look like rank amateurs.

But the thing was, these guys weren’t performing high risk stunts for the amusement of pre-adolescent cotton-candy eating wide-eyed children, no these guys were risking their lives putting up a 120 foot mast so that we could have Internet access at the new house.

For you see, some things need to be sacrificed out here in the boonies. With the great beach front property comes the wonderful world of wireless service.

While the electricity is hard wired in and there is good running water (from a deep well) everything else is through the air.

Phones are no problem. As we are in the mobile phone capitol of the free world we all had one or two cells each and were all well versed in the workings of cellular communication. In fact just at the house alone there are 7 full time cells running 24/7 and the familiar chimes signaling an incoming text can be heard throughout the day and well into the night.

Television is also not a problem. ‘Cable’ TV will be through Dream Satellite. The dish is already installed on the roof although we haven’t yet filled it with load or ran the cables to the various rooms. We each have an Xbox in our room hooked up to large screen TVs and with over 400 movies and 3000 TV series all networked and available on demand through the Xbox media center, as well as over 2000 DVDs in the house, Dream TV has not been a priority.

So the big problem, the major end-mission, fold up and go home, deal breaker, don’t pass Go and don’t collect 200 dollars catastrophic problem, would be Internet. For if there was no Internet access here in our new estate on the beach it was time to pack up and move again.

DSL or Cable was out of the question. No service reached out this far into the provincial jungle we now live in. Sure you can get ice, fish, milk, vegetables, as well as other items delivered fresher than you’ve ever had it right to your front door, but there was no land line Internet access yet available.

Dial-up would be a joke. For emergencies and before the mast was put up we got online with our cell phones, but that wasn’t fast enough and only a temporary solution. No way in hell could we ever do what we need to do using our cells or by having a land line installed.

So that left wireless…

No biggie, we thought. We can’t be the first people to do this. I mean is it really possible that we were the first people who want our cake and Internet too?

Of course not. A quick search on the web and sure enough we found the right company to come out and put up a mast so that we could survive. And I don’t use the term “survive” lightly. No Internet for a Web company means death so this was set up even before we got to the island.

The appointment was made even before we had made flight reservations from Manila to Dumaguete. We knew that as soon as possible after getting to the new house we would need Internet so after we got an appointment for the mast erection (ok, stop giggling…) we then booked our flight for the day prior.

Weather though would have a hand in the logistics. Simply Mother Nature letting us know that we are not in charge and she will let us have Internet when she wants and no sooner. So even the best laid plans sometimes go awry and also this one. We would have to wait for the storm to pass.

So after a two day delay due to the typhoon, the boys were out early in the morning to put up the mast.

The entire process was actually quite fascinating. They simply drove up in a trike loaded up with all the equipment they would need and got to work. Not one of those wimpy AC trikes, no this was a province trike, the kind you can fit 5 to 6 people in…comfortably! And it was packed. Pole segments, antenna pieces, cable, wire, nuts, bolts, testing gear… the works.

The crew consisted of 5 guys and the salesperson/supervisor who we were dealing with over the phone thus far. One guy was the technician so that left four grunts to assemble and erect the mast.

First a hole was dug and the first section of ten was sunk in, buried and anchored into place. This first section was about 12 feet high and longer than the other 9 sections that were added later.

Each pole segment is about eight inches around and has a small metal foot/hand rest welded to the outside every two feet. By the time each segment was put in place there are 30 guide wires attached to the mast keeping it relatively straight and secure.

When finished the ten segments along with the antenna section itself stands about 2 flagpoles tall or around 120 feet straight up out of the jungle virtually reaching back to civilization bringing us the life blood of the Internet.

The only thing is, there were no cranes and the 10 sections were not telescopic so that a pulley system or something could be used to fully erect the mast. No, each segment had to be placed in manually and then guide wires attached one at a time.

So you would think a harness or some climbing hooks or some carabineers would be used, right? Nope, you’re dead wrong. This maniac of a crew climbed up and did all of this without any safety gear what so ever.

120 feet up in the air with their feet locked on to some small little strip of steel welded to a thin pole, all about 8 hours after a typhoon had blown through the area. I say feet because they were not holding on with their hands as those were needed to run wires and fit together pole segments.

So like antenna monkeys grasping onto poles they scurried up and down the mast like it was nothing at all. Each time making our hearts skip a beat as we just prayed there would be no accidents or miss-steps.

“At least you know they are doing a good job as their life depends on how secure the previous pole is put in place.” I say looking straight up into the madness.

Before the last piece with the antenna components was put in place I gave the guy who was climbing up a quick lesson on digital camera operation and and he took a couple pictures of the property from way above.

These are probably the only ones that will ever be taken of this property from that angle. I promise you that any more pictures taken from that high will not taken by me as I am NOT going up that pole just for some panoramic shots of the beach!

Watching him up there I almost felt guilty hoping he didn’t drop the camera. Very little thought was given to if he himself could hang on and manage to snap a couple of pictures for me.

Oh well, karma is a bitch and I’m sure I’ll pay for that. 🙂

So down he came with the last piece of the mast in place. All that was needed was one more trip up the mast to cart the antenna and wire up there and we would be in business.

And quick as that he was up and down and all finished. Now that the antenna was in place and the wire was run down and connected to a router it was time for the technician to take over. In no time at all we were up and running and now had Internet at the house.

Ironically we were worried about connection speed and usability issues as well as down times due to the wireless connection however the only down times we have experienced so far are from a loss of connection from the main hub in Dumaguete to Manila. So even though we are off the main island of the Philippines, Luzon is still the cause of our Internet problems!

I am sure that Comclark is somehow involved and is actually the ones who have the switch and are fucking with us. “Oh yeah?” I can hear them say, “Leave Angeles City will you? And you think you are out of reach of our Internet hand?” Then with an evil chuckle they unplug us.

God I do not miss Comclark at all!

Anyway, when the circuit is good here in Dumaguete our connection is somewhere around 350 to 450 Kbps. We do get bursts of up to 600 to 800 Kbps and besides the Manila problems (which there have been a few as they are still recovering from the typhoon) service has been very good.

In fact, so good that it is sometimes shocking.

One night we were all down by the viewing deck having a cold beer watching the surf and got a text message from the Internet tech informing us of another outage due to a cut fiber line in Manila.

What a shock! The guy was proactive and texted us about the outage even before we noticed it ourselves! After all the battles with Comclark and the ineptitude of their staff, this was a pleasant change and a type of service I could definitely get used to!

Our collective and proverbial hats off to the acrobatic Internet boys who brought service to the beach house.

Until next time, that was a slice of province life…


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