It sucks. That’s really all I should have to say, except that it angers me so much that I want to rant about it for a few hundred more words.
Part of the issue is that I left Silicon Valley, a region that would decline into a self-entitled meltdown if the connection speeds diminished to anything lower than seven megabits per second. Interestingly enough, I read this article about how Silicon Valley Internet speeds are too slow. The article talked about how fed up companies like Google and Netflix are over their measly average of 9.8 megabits per second. I laughed, thinking, Wow, theirs comes in MEGAbits?
It’s not just land Internet service either. Whereas in the Bay Area I was shocked when I didn’t get LTE, here in Thailand 4G is merely a privilege of the Bangkok elite. Everywhere else we’re barely in 3G land, but judging the connection speeds, I doubt the ITU-R’s standards for 3G get taken seriously. For example, around the school where I work, I get five bars of 3G service, but I can’t load my Facebook news feed to save my life. And it isn’t too cheap: unlimited 3G connection for 30 days costs a 400 baht ($12).
What is cheap is my apartment building’s Wi-Fi service. That’s right. I don’t pay an ISP directly. I pay 150 baht ($5) per device to connect to one of the building’s four Wi-Fi networks. Then I pray that the connection stays stable and adequately fast for more than a couple hours at a time. If it rains, forget about it. No Internet unless it’s a sunny day.
In part I think the slow connectivity of this country is a bandwidth issue. There are definitely peak hours when everyone’s 3G slows down and our home Wi-Fi lags.
Then, there’s licensing restrictions and Thailand’s Internet censorship at play. In order to avoid the dreaded green cock blocker (in some cases, literally, as porn is forbidden here), as well as bypass copyright protection measures by the likes of Netflix and Spotify, I’ve got to use a VPN. So not only is my connection slow to begin with, but by the time it’s bounced off a U.S.-based server, loaded content from the source server, and pinged back to me, it’s a miracle I can stream or download any content. So if you think you’re a bigger “Game of Thrones” fan than me, try outlasting my patience while streaming season 6 next year.
Note: for a really interesting and accurate read about how the Thais have taken to social media, check this out.
Cost of Living
I have this colleague who at every turn seems unable to talk about Thailand in anything other than the most sardonic terms. He is in no way charmed by the culture, food, architecture, or anything else that makes this country uniquely Thailand. When I asked him why he lives in such a “ridiculous” country, he answered that he’s here for the climate and the cost of living. And really, those are the main reasons any Westerner lives here.
It’s not really why I moved here, but I do enjoy the cost of living. For example, I like that the rent and utilities for my apartment average about $200 per month. I like that my mobile phone costs me no more than $30 a month—that includes data usage. My motorbike needs a refill every 10 days at the staggering price of $2.50. Newer and better furnished than in America, cinemas cost half what I’m used to paying: a movie date with popcorn and a soda costs me around $12. The average meal in an air-conditioned, farang-friendly restaurant runs about $5, with Thai-centric restaurants running more like $3 a plate, and street vendors charging around $1.
An income of around $1,000 per month covers the modest living expenses of two people, plus platinum-level group health insurance premiums, all with enough headroom to hit up the bar or club every other weekend. Beer: $2.50 for a tall one. Jack and Coke: $6. Bottle service: $65 for a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka and 1 set of mixers.
There are consequences for this kind of easy living. Or more accurately, there are questionable causes. One side effect of a low cost of living is that sex is cheap (if your standards are low enough, you can get laid for as little as $25). That draws all kinds of weirdos looking to objectify the already downtrodden women of Thailand. Moreover, much of the cheapness of living stems from an overly subsidized economy and an undereducated middle class. But of course, those are topics best saved for other rants…