Colombia: How Broad Was My Broadband 2.0?

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“The Promotion and Massification of Broadband Internet Services in Colombia, Version 2.0”

Bien en ‘banda ancha’, pero mal en banda ancha (Enter 2.0, Colombia): Good news, writes tech editor Javier Mendez, for the modern Colombian broadband industry!

And at the same time, not so good.

“Broadband” subscriptions are exploding in Colombia!

It is a veritable information-age revolution!

That, at least, is how EL TIEMPO covered the story today: “The Internet Explodes in Colombia!”

The problem being that “broadband” is only exploding if you redefine the notion of “breadth” in a (misleading) manner. See also

La Comisión de Regulación de Telecomunicaciones (CRT) dio a conocer la semana pasada un informe que reveló cifras muy alentadoras sobre la evolución de Internet en Colombia. Este dice que el número de usuarios de Internet se duplicó entre junio del 2006 y junio del 2007 (llegó a 10,1 millones), que los suscriptores de ‘banda ancha’ ya son la gran mayoría (83 por ciento del total) y que la penetración de Internet en Colombia (23 por ciento) al fin logró superar el promedio mundial (19 por ciento) y el de América Latina (20,8 por ciento).

Colombia’s regulatory commission for telecommunications (the CRT) published a report last week with very encouraging numbers on the development of the Internet in Colobmia. It says that the numbe of Internet users doubled between June 2006 and June 2007 (to 10.1 mllion), that the great majority of Internet users subscribe to broadband services (83% of the total) and the Internet penetration in Colombia (23%) has finally surpassed the world average (19%) and the average for Latin America (20.8%).

A primera vista, los datos invitan a celebrar. Sin embargo, el mismo estudio tiene otras cifras que muestran que Colombia solo ha avanzado la mitad del camino, ya que aunque muchas personas tienen ‘banda ancha’ (cable y ADSL), estas conexiones son muy lentas, tanto que la mayoría no se puede considerar de banda ancha; por ello, en su informe por primera vez la CRT omite llamarlas así, y se refiere a ellas como conexiones ‘dedicadas’.

At first glance, these data are cause for celebration. However, the same study presents other numbers that show that Colombia has only completed half the journey, because, though many people have “broadband” connections (cable and aDSL), these connections are very, very slow — so much so that most of them cannot be considered “broadband” at all. For that reason, and for the very first time, the CRT now avoids calling them “broadband,” referring to them instead as “dedicated” connections.

La importancia de esta divagación semántica es más grande de lo que parece: la CRT expidió el 3 de octubre del 2007 una resolución que definió que los proveedores de acceso a Internet solo podrán promocionar sus servicios como ‘de banda ancha’ cuando estos garanticen al usuario una velocidad superior a 512 kilobits por segundo (Kbps). Antes, cualquier conexión de más de 128 Kbps se consideraba de ese tipo.

This digression in to semantics matters more than you think: The CRT issued a resolution on October 3, 2007 under which ISPs may not advertise their services under “broadband” unless they guarantee the user throughput greater than 512 kbps. Before, any connection greater than 128 kbps could be described as “broadband.”

Did they really use the word “guarantee.”?

Because you could always just take a page from Brazilian broadband operators. You simply promise 512 kbps, or one or 2 or 4 megas, and then simply consistently fail to live up to your promise.

Pues bien, si se escarba en las cifras del informe de la CRT, se ve que el 57,5 por ciento de los suscriptores dedicados del país tiene conexiones de 100 a 300 Kbps y el 28 por ciento cuenta con enlaces de 300 a 600 Kbps (aunque en el último grupo no se indica cuántos están por encima de 512 Kbps, es fácil presumir que son una minoría).

So then, if you look closely at the numbers in the CRT, you see that 57.5% of “dedicated connection” subscribes have connections at 100 kpbs to 300 kbps, and 28% have connections between 300 and 600 kbps. Although it is not stated how many in the latter group have connections above 512 kbps, we can readily assume they are a minority.

Eso significa que cerca del 85 por ciento de los suscriptores dedicados de Colombia tiene conexiones que no se pueden considerar de banda ancha, según los parámetros de la resolución de la CRT. En otras palabras, seguimos muy rezagados en un frente vital para el desarrollo de una sociedad digital.

That means that nearly 85 percent of “dedicated connection” subscribers in Colombia have connections that cannot be considered broadband, under the CRT resolution. In other words, we remain way behind on a vital front for the development of a digital society.

The kind of quality-control for which Soviet industrial collectivism had a reputation, but at First World prices that are grotesquely out of proportion to local earning power.

We pay pretty much the same amount, in absolute terms, for our infotainment pipeline in São Paulo, as we do in Brooklyn, for example.

Adjusted to local minimum wage, however, we pay many, many multiples of that. At these rates, my laptop should also be dispensing an endless supply of champagne. And the quality of service is subpar in the main, swinging to atrocious often enough so as you find yourself being left high and dry in the middle of your online business often enough to get pretty irate over.

And Brazilian cable TV? They ought to pay me to have to watch this stuff.

You see this often down here in the antipodes.

Speedy aDSL here in São Paulo, for example … is a misnomer, and the butt of popular jokes to that effect.

Nor is it really even all that “dedicated.” It is not “always on,” for example. You have to “dial into” the service.

It kicks you off the network constantly, without your asking it to. And is prone to outages, not least because it pigs on Telefônica’s rickety fixed line telephony infrastructure and AES-Eletropaulo’s faith-based investments in duct-tape maintenance.

Rent-seeking behavior generally implies substandard service at inflated prices. Attempts to control such rent-seeking behavior are often depicted down here as acts of totalitarian repression.

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“Neologisms and the Knowledge Society: Functions of Language in the Era of Globalization.” So what are the revolutionary new functions of language in this brave new world, anyway? One cannot know. “This page uses Windows Media Technology. Your browser [Firefox] does not support them.” Which is by way of being, what’s the pseudoterminology they use nowadays? A non-antiuntruth? True 2.0? It’s Windows Media Technology that refuses to support my platform. Source: Telefónica Foundation (Spain). See also “toxic sludge is good for you.” Click to zoom.


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