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Internet In The Alps

October 28, 2020

Ah, the simple things we take for granted in the United States. Almost everyone has tons of internet access at speeds that range anywhere from 6MPS to over a 100MPS. It’s what we call “normal.” We may be a bit spoiled though.

To be sure, internet speeds can be comparable in Italy, if you live in the city. We, on the other hand, have been treated to the underbelly of the internet where we live in the Italian Alps. The reason? We live in a super rural section of the mountainous South Tirol where an internet connection of any kind is a luxury and an extremely poor connection is the norm.

When we first moved to Italy, all that we had available was a dial-up connection through our rural phone line. The top download rate was 14KPS – YES KPS! We once downloaded a Windows update that took several days. Making matters worse, whenever we returned from the United States our phone line main wire was always mysteriously disconnected down at the centrale, the central phone hub in our small village. Both our voice and internet connections were so scratchy that it made their use next to impossible. I finally told TELECOM Italia to take their piss poor service and give it a mighty shove. (It actually sounds a lot better in Italian….)

We then graduated to the chiavetta. This is a USB interfaced SIM card that receives a signal from a tower enabling internet access. It sounded good but we soon found that the signal’s strength undulated and faded away altogether frequently. However we were getting speeds of up to 4 MPS and it is a great improvement (relatively) over the dial-up regime. We rolled along with this program for a few years.

Then in 2018 we returned to Italy and tried to renew our chiavetta connection. Bummer! It seemed that the little bugger didn’t work with Windows 10. (Gosh, can you imagine that?) When I rushed down to the computer store in the largest adjacent village, I was told that they didn’t sell chiavette any longer and that I would have to purchase a mobile hot spot. It is the same technology as the USB device but it broadcasts a WIFI signal anywhere in your house. Cool! My wife had brought her tablet and I brought over my laptop so I thought we were all set.

Aside from an unintelligible array of lights which I still don’t understand, the download speeds were disappointing; the same as before. However, the mobile hot spot ate up about twice the data as the old chiavetta. So now we were paying twice as much for the same data and getting the same flaky reception. The signal quality comes and goes. It’s like that little girl with the curl: When it’s good, it’s very, very good and when it’s bad it’s horrid.

You knew there was going to be a clincher, didn’t you? Yes indeed! It’s called tourism. Every July 1, the albergo (hotel) near us hosts between 8 and 20 dancing students for a month. Of course these little urchins are thumbing away on their phones and computers 24-7 making a connection at our house nearly impossible as everyone shares the same tower. Then come the hordes of tourists, arriving between July 1 and August 1 for the big tamale, Ferragosto on August 15. The run-up to this holiday marks the beginning of an entire month where everyone is on vacation and all of the factories are shut down. (No wonder Italian GPD is always in the dumper,)  The result for us is almost zero internet for the summer. Of course we can always try to connect at three in the morning but even then it seems that our sleepless Italian friends have eaten up the bandwidth like a lingering midnight snack.

Internet in the Alps? You would have better odds of winning the lottery!

PS – I had to drive many kilometers to a public library to upload this ditty!

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From → Humor, Italy, Travel

3 Comments
  1. This is called “immersion therapy” – you get to experience what life was like for your ancestors pre-internet!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We take a lot of things for granted in the United State! Perhaps we think we are entitled… very sad!!

    Liked by 1 person

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