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Live Wire: A decade of hard internet knocks

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Live Wire: A decade of hard internet knocks | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: This is the final installment in a four-part series of articles about getting connected to the internet in Phuket. High season is upon us and many people are looking for good internet connections – for a month, a year, or the rest of their lives. In these four articles I’ve tried to distill more than a decade’s worth of hard internet knocks into a fairly comprehensive view of what’s good, bad and reprehensible in local internet technology.

In the first installment in this series, I talked about the general state of internet connections in Phuket. We on the island suffer from a small subset of the general malaise over internet in Thailand in general – political infighting, turf battles, malleable regulations, persuadable officials, and an apparent lack of concern about consumers. With hundreds of billions of baht at stake, and millions of consumers getting the shaft daily, the Keystone Cops approach just isn’t cutting the mustard.

In the second issue of the series, I covered the current offerings in land lines, with TOT Fiber 2U 10 Mega bits per second (Mbps) representing the best bang for your baht (1,500 baht/month), True DOCSIS “Ultra” coming in second (if you can get it; 599 bt/mo or 1,299 bt/mo for a moderately faster line), then TOT’s WiNet hybrid wireless-to-your-home (599 bt/mo), and finally all of the ADSL lines, from 3BB, CAT, TOT or True, which are generally indistinguishable from one another, and run to 599 bt/mo. No, I don’t recommend signing up for internet service with your cable TV provider; I’ve heard too many horror stories.

Last week I talked about ‘3G’ wireless connections. My recommendation is to go with CAT’s “My Click”, because it’s considerably cheaper than the alternatives. You may find a good bargain on a specific phone or tablet at TrueMove-H or DTAC (both of which use the same network as CAT), or at AIS (which uses the same network as TOT). Speed and reliability seem to be much more dependent on your location than on the company nominally providing the service.

In general, land lines provide service that’s usually good enough to run a Skype video call, or play streamed standard-TV-quality video, as you might from YouTube. International download speeds typically run between 1 and 2 Mbps, with some lines going up to 3 or 4 reliably (See phuketinternetspeed.com).

Some land lines are good enough to stream high definition TV, but they’re definitely the exception, not the rule.

If you’re trying to download torrents, special conditions apply: some internet service providers actively throttle (cut back the speed on) torrents or access to the newsgroups. There are tricks.

On the wireless side, you can expect speeds that are about half of that offered by typical ADSL land lines. Again, that’s usually good enough for a Skype video call, or playing YouTube videos on your phone or tablet. But you can’t expect much better. All 3G plans cap your data usage at some point – 2, 3 or 4 GB, usually – but you should check each individual plan.

When you exceed your data cap for the month, the service provider cuts your speed way, way down. That makes 3G in Phuket useful for phones and tablets if they aren’t used too much, but it puts a big crimp on using 3G for general web surfing or downloading a lot of email. Downloading big files, including torrents, over 3G, is an exercise in futility.

So how do you sign up for an internet package? There are a few tricks.

First, stay flexible. On a recent house hunting trip I was shocked to discover that the main land line providers don’t even have cable run to some of the most internet-savvy places on the island: it’s as if nobody has figured out that people in nice houses with significant disposable incomes are actually willing to pay for good, faster internet service.

In other words, don’t expect logic (I’m sure you knew that).

Second, don’t believe anything you read. There isn’t one, single internet service provider on the island that reliably supplies one-fifth of their advertised bandwidth for international access: sign up for a 10 Mbps line, and you’ll probably get 1 Mbps. And if you really believe the wireless service in Phuket runs at 42 Mbps, I have a bridge in New York I’d like to sell to you.

Third, if you already have an internet provider, and you don’t like your service, go to the provider and see if they’ll upgrade you for a small fee. Upgrading typically doesn’t involve any labor: somebody in Bangkok types a number into a computer, and you’re suddenly on a different circuit. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Fourth, don’t try to do anything over the phone, and don’t expect to get anything done in English. Some of the internet service providers have staff with excellent English skills: the CAT and True offices in Central, True in Lotus, TOT on Chao Fah West and TOT Patong come to mind immediately. Many of the other providers aren’t so lucky. When you’re ready to get a new package, physically go to the office, and take a Thai-speaking friend with you.

Fifth, when you go to the service provider’s office, take your passport (or ID card if you’re Thai). If you’re looking for a postpaid account, where you don’t pay for the service in advance, keep in mind that you’re actually applying for credit. Some service providers will give you a postpaid account if you have a work permit. Others will give you an account if you have a retirement visa, and the rules change all the time. Many require that a Thai national sign you up, to guarantee that the bill will be paid.

Sixth, when you go to the service provider’s office, take an exact street address, written in Thai, plus a map. You’ll need it.

Seventh, if you’re going for a wireless 3G connection, take your hardware with you, even if you have to schlep your desktop PC along. You should always insist on getting the wireless connection working, even if you have to wait an hour or two for the satellite’s accounts to get updated.

Eighth, if you’re getting a wired connection, have a schedule for when the installer can find you at home. The installers here aren’t any more reliable than the ones anywhere else in the world, so give yourself lots of leeway. You also need to understand that the installer is only responsible for getting the internet working up to the boundary of your property – they’re not responsible for wiring inside your house. That said, most installers I know are willing to go the extra mile and make sure your line’s working all the way to your computer, for a few hundred baht.

There you have it. Stick with those eight guidelines and you’re likely to have a decent internet connection going in short order.

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 — Woody Leonhard

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Economy

70% of Phuket’s tourism businesses are closed, many for good

Caitlin Ashworth

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70% of Phuket’s tourism businesses are closed, many for good | The Thaiger
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Most tourism businesses in Phuket have closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and they probably won’t be up and running again until foreign tourists are let back in Thailand. Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew says around 70% of tourism businesses have closed, most of them just temporarily, but some have shut down permanently. But the statistics are not quite that simple, with the east side of the island, largely inhabited by locals with the central business district of Phuket Town and some of the more popular expat towns, doing far better than the tourist magnets of the west coast. The Thaiger estimates that on the west coast the number would exceed 90%.

Before the pandemic, tourism to Phuket brought in 450 billion baht a year with 400 billion baht from foreign visitors while the other 50 billion baht was from domestic tourists. Thailand has been trying to increase domestic tourism to help revive the industry after the pandemic. Phuket’s governor says it helps, but not enough.

“Their visits can help solve some of our economic problems, but they cannot replace the need of foreign tourists.”

66.8% of tourism businesses in Phuket have closed temporarily while 2.8% have closed permanently, according to data by the Digital Economy Promotion Agency. (Again the percentage along the west coast is MUCH higher – just take a drive through Paton, Kat, Karon). Phuket’s governor is trying figure out how to recover the economy. And fast.

“By the end of September, the number of businesses to be closed will increase up to 70% for sure.”

While many businesses are closed, the governor says Phuket is “almost 100% ready to welcome foreign tourists.” The governor says he can’t give an answer to when foreign tourists will arrive in Phuket, but he claims they’ve “prepared every step,” from checking in at the airport to hotel quarantine. They’re just going to install some new temperature check machines at the Phuket International Airport and review the procedures for welcoming the tourists.

“We have to work and prepare carefully to welcome foreign tourists… We have to gradually open our door to welcome small groups of people first, in order to test our system, and then open for bigger groups.”

At the moment, only 3 venues in Phuket have been approved to operate as alternative state quarantine facilities. Anantara Phuket Suites & Villas has 100 rooms available, Anantara Mai Khao Phuket has 36 villas and Trisara resort has 15 villas. All are 5 star venues with a commensurate 5 star cost.

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Phuket

Thailand’s Social Security Office forced to explain investment in Sri Panwa Phuket Resort trust fund

Maya Taylor

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Thailand’s Social Security Office forced to explain investment in Sri Panwa Phuket Resort trust fund | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Sri Panwa Phuket Resort - Sri Panwa Phuket

The Social Security Office, a department under the direction of Thailand’s Ministry of Labour, is being asked to explain its investment in the trust fund of Phuket’s Sri Panwa Phuket Resort. The demand comes as members of the opposition and political activists call for an investigation into the property’s land rights. The owner of Sri Panwa Phuket, Vorasit Issara, has been condemned online recently, with his property attracting multiple negative reviews, after he criticised anti-government protest leader, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.

Thai PBS World reports that the Civil Society for State Welfare is calling on the SSO to clarify its investment in the Sri Panwa Hospitality Real Estate Investment Trust, thought to be worth around 500 million baht. Nimit Thian-udom says that, while the SSO’s investment does not break any laws, the board must explain the reasons behind the investment decision and clarify the return on that investment. In addition, he says the SSO should attach more importance to good governance when choosing where to invest.

The call for clarity is echoed by opposition MP Chirayu Huangsap, from the Pheu Thai Party, who calls on the Labour Minister to explain the investment. He adds that any discrepancies will be reported to both the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission.

The land rights of the luxury Sri Panwa Phuket resort, which sits on prime land atop Phuket’s Cape Panwa, overlooking the south-eastern tip of the island, are also being called into question. Veera Somkwamkid, from the People’s Network Against Corruption, says he is looking into the property’s land rights and will pass his findings to the Department of Special Investigations.

For his part, the Labour Minister, Somsak Thepsuthin, says he doesn’t know if the property has been legally built, saying it’s up to the DSI to investigate and that a complaint does not need to be filed in order for them to do so.

Meanwhile, review site Tripadvisor has had to suspend reviews for the Sri Panwa resort, as anti-government netizens exact their revenge on the proprietor by posting negative feedback on the property.

“Due to a recent event that has attracted media attention and has caused an influx of review submissions that do not describe a first-hand experience, we have temporarily suspended publishing new reviews for this listing.”

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Thailand

Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chachoengsao join UNESCO’s learning cities

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chachoengsao join UNESCO’s learning cities | The Thaiger
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3 cities in Thailand recently joined UNESCO’s membership of so called “learning cities” which are said to promote “lifelong learning” and sustainable development. Chachoengsao, Chiang Mai and Phuket joined the UNESCO’s Global Network of Learning Cities. Altogether, 55 cities from 27 countries, adding up to 230 cities in 64 countries around the world, according to UNESCO.

“These cities are outstanding examples of how lifelong learning can become a reality at local level. They have proven that effective lifelong learning policies and practices can support the development of inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and contribute to the 2030 Agenda.”

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning David Atchoarena says the recent new members have shown that they can make “lifelong learning a reality,” even after enduring the pandemic.

“With unprecedented urgency, the Covid-19-19 pandemic has underlined the necessity to build more resilient education systems for the future. With more than half of humanity living in urban areas, cities must be at the centre of this undertaking.”

David says he hopes it will inspire other cities in Thailand to follow.

“I very much hope that we will see many other cities from Thailand joining the network and working on providing lifelong learning opportunities for all to ensure a sustainable and peaceful future.”

The mayor of Chachoengsao, Kolayuth Chaisang, says his goal is to provide “effective education, thoroughly and equally to all citizens.” According to the Bangkok Post, the city is a key urban centre both economically and culturally.

The mayor of Chiang Mai, Tussanai Buranupakorn, says he wants to revitalise the city, while also maintaining the cultural significance. The city has a number of educational institutes, which goes along with UNESCO’s learning city principles.

Phuket is a hub of sustainable creativity, according to the Bangkok Post. The mayor of Phuket, Somjai Suwansupana, says he wants to preserve the city’s “identity, local wisdom assets and the charm of our multiculturalism.”

SOURCES: UNESCO |Bangkok Post

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