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Live Wire: Getting wired into Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Live Wire: Getting wired into Phuket | Thaiger

PHUKET: High season is approaching. Every year about this time I start getting inquiries about connecting to the Internet in Phuket.

As people flock to Phuket for vacations and new jobs, many decide to stay for a week or a month or a decade, and one of the very first questions they have is how in the world to get hooked into the grid, Phuket style.

It ain’t easy.

Other people write to me and ask how they can switch their abysmal (the term is usually considerably more colorful) internet service. The short answer is that there’s no way to know for sure – in Phuket, more than any other place I’ve ever been, there are huge variances in line quality and loading; one person’s fabulous line may be another’s nefarious Skype-dropping mess.

When I first arrived in Phuket twelve years ago, my very first task – after finding a temporary place to live – was to get an internet connection going. There wasn’t much reliable information back then, and there isn’t too much more now.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Thailand are fighting a lot of different battles, and consumer relations is only part of the picture.

Over the years, I’ve stressed measuring international download speeds. We’ve had a lot of problems with getting accurate reports – TOT and True, in particular, have jimmied their lines to give unrealistically good performance measures with the tests we use. I still haven’t found a good solution to that problem. I’ll be meeting with an expert on the topic over the next few months to see if we can find a better way.

For now, the best I can do is give you a relatively educated guess as to the capabilities of the internet packages available on the island, and steer you in the direction that I would go. Your mileage may well vary.

International download speeds aren’t as crucial as they once were. Many companies – Google (including YouTube), Microsoft (including Hotmail), Akamai (which drives thousands of key sites) and others – have set up servers either in Thailand, or one short and very fast hop away, typically in Singapore.

In addition, the ISP’s caches – pools of data sucked into the country once, over a single
international data pipe, then doled out to thousands of customers inside Thailand – are bigger and faster than ever.

If you think you’re looking at a YouTube video or a Formula race “live” from another corner of the world, you’re probably wrong. Chances are good that what you’re seeing has been cached in Bangrak, the waystation outside Bangkok, or possibly in Singapore or Tokyo.

Yes, even your Gmail and Hotmail (er, Outlook.com) email messages are being mirrored in Singapore, and it all happens in the blink of an eye.

I wish that signing up for an internet line was as easy as visiting your friendly local ISP and paying for the fastest package you can afford. It doesn’t work that way. Perhaps more accurately, it may work that way, but you definitely won’t get what you think you’re going to get.

It happens to me, too. I’m in the process of moving from Patong to a more central location on the island. My house search at one point narrowed down to two well-established housing developments in Kathu.

These aren’t new places – they’ve both been around for many years. The people who live in the houses have computers and TV sets and all sorts of electronics – and some presumably have disposable income.

You would think the internet companies would be crawling all over each other to get fast internet connections out to both of these developments and take advantage of the high demand.

And you’d be wrong.

I made the trek to TOT, True and 3BB, hat in hand, and asked about availability of various internet packages in both locations. TOT said they didn’t have fiber in one location, and they weren’t sure about the other. True said they didn’t have the “Ultra” service in one location, and they probably didn’t have Ultra in the other, either. (True’s “Ultra” is a DOCSIS based cable technology that’s similar to cable TV.)

All three said they could get ADSL to both locations, but if I want the faster technology, I’m probably up a creek.

So that’s the first lesson: even if an ISP has a good package, it may not be available wherever you are. Yes, even if you’re in the middle of a popular housing development, surrounded by people willing to pay a premium for good internet service.

The second lesson: some housing developments won’t let you install your own internet line – even if the service they offer is absurdly overpriced and utterly unreliable.

Frankly, I have very little tolerance for places like that.

Fortunately, there’s one technology available – TOT’s AirMax “WiNet” service – that gives you ADSL speeds without having to string a wire to your house. You may or may not be able to sneak that by your developer’s association.

The third lesson: this is all changing. Fast. Right now, the wireless ‘3G’ services from AIS, TrueMove-H, DTAC, and CAT, and coming soon from TOT, offer speeds that typically run about half as fast as what you’d expect from a decent ADSL line. That’s quite remarkable, considering that you can take the 3G connection around with you, all over the country, and hook up network cables and WiFi to little pocket-size boxes – all widely available in Phuket.

But the big change is just about a year away. LTE ‘4G’, if we get it in Phuket (don’t get me started about the 3G auctions), has the potential to run considerably faster than almost all of the landline connections currently available. Of course, that assumes the ISPs pay to build the infrastructure necessary to support those fast speeds. But the potential’s there for a huge game changing shift, not unlike the shift from telephone wires to mobile phones two decades ago.

Next week I’ll talk about the wired connections available in most parts of the island. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the more expensive “faster” lines aren’t necessarily faster at all.

We’re running informal computer clinic roundtables every Sunday morning at Sandwich Shoppe Chalong, located 1 km north of Chalong Circle on Chao Fah East road. If you have a Windows problem that needs to be solved, or a question about internet service in Phuket, drop by and ask one of the assembled gurus. Sponsored by the Phuket Gazette and Khun Woody’s Sandwich Shoppes.

Live Wire is Woody Leonhard’s weekly snapshot of all things Internet in Phuket.

Follow him on Twitter, @PhuketLiveWire, and “like” the pages at facebook.com/SandwichShoppe, facebook.com/phuketgazette.net and now Google+, or send him mail at Woody@KhunWoody.com.

— Woody Leonhard

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

UPDATE: Field hospitals being established in Covid hot zones around Thailand

Tim Newton

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UPDATE: Field hospitals being established in Covid hot zones around Thailand | Thaiger

UPDATE: The field hospital in Bangkok’s Bang Bon district, west of the Chao Phraya river, had its first 10 Covid patients today. The director of the medical services office of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration says that the 10 patients into the makeshift hospital, located at the Chalerm Phra Kiat Stadium, will enable assessment of the performance by the medical team, before more patients arrive – Thai PBS World

ORIGINAL STORY: Despite the confident posture and Songkran going ahead, amid restrictions, there is a lot of background activity which suggest the authorities are getting ready for a surge of new infections at the end of the Songkran break, officially this Thursday (but in reality, next Sunday at the end of the weekend when most people who travelled home will return for a resumption of work).

The Thai lunar new year celebrations – Songkran – are the largest mass movement of Thais each year, a source for a huge leap in road deaths and accidents. And, this year, a potential super-spreader event.

Quietly, at least 3,000 extra beds have been prepared in 10 field hospitals around Bangkok. The government has also confirmed that additional field hospitals are being set up in other potential ‘hot zones’, including Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chonburi and Hua Hin. Some of them were set up last year, and since closed, and now being prepared for new positive infections.

One Thai person who had been in one of the field hospitals put together a check-list of things to take IF you end up as an invited ‘guest’ HERE.

The CCSA say they are looking for additional beds in hotels and previous state quarantine facilities (where repatriating Thais were housed for their free quarantine) to be used if needed.

This year’s Songkran had bad timing, coming just a week after a number of major clusters were identified around some of Bangkok’s popular nightlife areas in 3 key inner city districts. Even before Songkran these isolated clusters had already spread into the provinces. In the weekend before Songkran the government had already listed 37 provinces which had instigated some form of paperwork or restrictions for people who had been in any of the 3 Bangkok districts.

The government also leapt on the source of the new outbreaks – bars, clubs and entertainment venues – and promptly shut them down for at least 2 weeks. At this stage it looks likely that that ban will be extended beyond the 2 weeks and, depending on the extent of new infections following the Songkran holiday, additional restrictions will also be added.

Even today the Civil Aviation Authority published a number of new in-flight restrictions for passengers – another blow to the hard-hit domestic aviation sector.

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Chiang Mai

Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half

Tim Newton

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Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half | Thaiger

The TAT, ever the optimists regarding anything tourism related, even domestic tourism, predict that the Bangkok clusters that have emerged in the week before the Songkran break could reduce traffic and spending by up to half.

Today the CCSA is reporting 789 new infections and one additional death. 522 were local infections, mostly walk-ins to Bangkok hospitals, 259 were discovered through track and tracing. The remaining 8 were found in quarantine from overseas arrivals. In Phuket, another 17 cases have been reported today, taking the island’s week total to 43.

Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half | News by ThaigerGRAPH: Worldometer figures for Thailand, up to April 9

A 68 year old man from Nakhon Pathom province died on April 4 but wasn’t reported until today. The CCSA report that he died from Covid and “complications”. 33 other former patients have recovered and been discharged.

Last week the TAT estimated 3.2 million domestic trips would circulate 12 billion baht for the Thai economy. But the Tourism Authority has now slashed their estimates by half after hotels, airlines and bus companies reported mass cancellations in the last few days. Other provinces are reporting less than 20% cancellations. Although this weekend will see a lot of travel, Songkran doesn’t formally start until next Tuesday and the TAT expect there could be additional fallout as travellers decide to have a staycation for Songkran instead heading home.

Bangkok Post reports that 70% of travellers to Prachuap Khiri Khan and Hua Hin have already cancelled hotel bookings. Similar cancellations have been reported in Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai. Many other provinces, particularly in the north east and north, are also enforcing quarantine on arrivals or additional paperwork to try and protect their provinces from any of the Bangkok clusters.

8 north eastern provinces rare now requiring 10 or 14 day quarantine periods for anyone arriving from areas where new clusters have been reported. Chiang Mai provincial officials say that tourists from Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom, Bangkok, Pathum Thani and Nonthaburi – basically Bangkok and surrounding provinces – must complete a 14 day mandatory quarantine or conduct a test for Covid when they arrive.

The reality is that the travel and quarantine changes are outstripping the ability to communicate them all. Anyone crossing into other provinces in the next few day, especially if you’re travelling from Bangkok and surrounding provincial ‘red zones’ can expect some additional paperwork or a Covid test. Or even quarantine.

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Education

Phuket student protests and is flunked as “not loyal to the nation”

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Phuket student protests and is flunked as “not loyal to the nation” | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Student protests led to one student not graduating due to being “not loyal to the nation, institution of the monarchy”

After participating in protests for student’s rights, a Phuket student was barred from graduating 9th grade, moving from middle school to high school, charged with being “not loyal to the nation, institution of the monarchy”. The student had advocated against mandatory uniforms and for student’s liberties. He told reporters that the school started paying attention to his actions last year when he participated in rallies in solidarity with students across Thailand. The school’s student affairs office received a copy of posts he made on social media encouraging others to join the cause. The school ordered a stop to his political actions, but he and his friends disregarded warnings and violated school rules when they handed out white ribbons to classmates. They received a warning from the student affairs office.

Student protests have increased after pro-democracy demonstrations surged in July last year, empowering many Thai people to speak out against injustices, including students’ rights and liberties. People from schools across the nation have been banding together in solidarity to bring their issues to public light.

On graduation day, all the students were promoted into high school, except for the one student protestor, says the Bad Student protest group. The theme of the day focused on dedication to the monarchy, country and religion, and specifically how students should be obedient. The student said he has received support from friends, but his parents remain neutral and his teachers have been completely silent on the matter. He is frustrated that he was punished for his right to express himself. He plans on testing with incoming students to re-enrol in the same school, and if he is not accepted because of the disloyalty charge, he will pursue legal ramifications, suing the school for blocking his right to an education over the student’s protests.

The student believes he needs to speak out to prevent school administrators from imposing on more students’ rights. He advocates for diversity in schools and ending prejudices, with increased liberties and freedoms for students.

“Schools must teach children to be able to think by themselves, not force children to think like them. Schools should create opportunities for students to express their ideas more freely.”

SOURCE: Prachatai

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