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We have been waiting four months now to get an internet connection installed to our house. The phone company couldn’t do DSL because we don’t live close enough to the central switching station. CableTV, the local and only cable provider, kept telling us “In just two more weeks we are going to activate it. The cable is already installed.” That was part fact, part fiction.
We finally went to the homeowner’s association office to find out who would install high speed service here. I knew someone had to install it, as there are several wireless networks that appear in our neighborhood. But they didn’t know. They did say, however, that CableTV was actually getting ready to install the cables and bring service to the neighborhood.
A few days later we saw the cables being hung. Now we are waiting to get the notice that they will install a line to our house.
Not only is it hard to get service, once you do get it it’s really not that great. At my in-laws house, where they have cable, it’s suppposed to provide up to 128kbs. It’s usually more like 5 kbs. You can surf the web, but you can’t watch video online, and you may need a week or more to download a 1 Gb file.
You can hardly do any kind of business online. Fortunately, online banking and bill paying has arrived. But like everything else involving a formal transaction between two parties, the bank has somehow managed to bring red tape to the web.
First, you go to the bank’s web page. You click a button to log on. Another page opens, where you type in your ID number and using an on-screen panel of numbers from 1 to 9, which by the way is scrambled and different every time you use it, you click on your 4 digit passcode using the cursor, to log in. A new page open with your account info.
It’s easy enough to make a transfer directly to another bank account or to make a payment to any of the numerous institutions which are directly available through the on-line service, but it’s a little different than the what I’m used to. To pay, for example, your water bill, you click on the menu of affiliated payees, and find the water company. You click on the link, and enter your water bill account number, and the bill will show up saying how much you owe. You confirm that you want to pay the bill. Once again, the famous scrambled number screen pops up, but this time it asks you to enter a code that you must find on a special card the bank provides. The screen will say 1C, for example, so you look on row 1, column C on your card, and enter the three digit code using the scrambled keypad and your cursor on the screen. You click confirm, and you get an online receipt showing the bill has been paid. I have no problem with tight security, but this is ridiculous…if you lose the card, you can’t pay any of your bills. And you can’t reset your password online, but must go to the bank to request it be reset. So there’s a flaw right there…you can’t frequently reset your password.
It’s similar with the tax payment system. Now, I find it impressive that you can pay your business taxes online where most everything involves hours of standing in line and an expediter for most public transactions. However…First, you must download a small application, which only runs on Windows, in which you can fill out any of the numerous tax forms. So you fill out your form offline, and it saves the file. You go online, log in (with your ID number and password-which can only be reset by going in person to a tax office), and click file taxes. A pop-up window allows you to find the file you want to upload with the filled out tax form. You submit it, and get a notification on-line as well as an email. Then, if you bank with the right bank, you can also make your tax payment online. If you don’t, you still have to go to the bank to make the payment.
The other day I called Movistar, the Spanish owned cell phone provider, to change the credit card my account is billed to. They wouldn’t change it for me over the phone, and you can’t do it online-their website is just so that they can say they have a website. But they would email me a form, then send someone to pick it up and submit the form to change the credit card number, for $3.50. I thought the internet and email were to make things more convenient…anyway, I decided to just go straight to the office and ask that they change the billing card. It took two minutes and I was done.
Business and home use of internet here is limited to the few who can afford it, and the few companies who have made the effort to actually implement a decent web site. And I haven’t found one of those yet.