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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 | Thaiger

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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Tourism

Phuket’s July Sandbox no-quarantine model “needs a major revamp”

Tim Newton

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Phuket’s July Sandbox no-quarantine model “needs a major revamp” | Thaiger
PHOTO: The monsoon waves are starting to hit Phuket's west coast

Thailand’s Sports and Tourism minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn is acknowledging that Phuket’s ‘Sandbox’ model for a no-quarantine re-opening in July will need “a major revamp”. As the Songkran travel bubble bursts and the monsoon season waves start to roll onto the island’s west coast beaches, Phuket’s scheduled July re-boot suddenly seems a long way off.

Minister Phiphat says he plans to meet with “all related agencies” this week. Apart from the latest national re-surge in new infections, Phuket has been unable to get its hands on sufficient vaccines to meed its deadline of 70% of the island vaccinated by July 1. Thailand’s limited supplies of the vaccine – including some 930,000 doses designated for Phuket – are being rerouted to other provinces as the government prioritises the limited supply.

“We are all concerned about the reopening timeline,” he was quoted in Bangkok Post.

But the Minister did acknowledge that, if the 70% vaccination level couldn’t be met, they may consider opening some areas of the island. Exactly how that would work hasn’t been revealed at this stage.

The minister also brought up the ongoing travel bubble negotiations and says he hadn’t heard back from some of the candidates with their reaction to the current outbreak.

Flights in and out of Phuket Airport’s international terminal have been extremely patchy and the flights from feeder tourist markets will need to co-operate with any re-opening plans.

Phuket, whilst suffering a rise in new infections, hasn’t been hit as hard as some of the other popular holiday provinces, like Chiang Mai, Chon Buri (Pattaya) and Prachuap Khiri Khan (Hua Hin).

This year’s Songkran was going to be a major stepping stone for the island’s recovery and many hotels, some who had opened especially to cater for Songkran holiday traffic, noted a lot of cancellations just prior to the break.

But some island hotels have still reported high occupancy rates over the past week. One Manager, who did not want his name published, said that their hotel was almost full with Thai patrons, most who had pre-paid for their flights and accommodation and decided to go ahead anyway.

Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, the president of the Phuket Tourist Association, says that they are opposed to any lockdown as it would cripple the island, with its tourist businesses already suffering greatly. He stated that 15% of people cancelled their Songkran bookings, while 30% had postponed their trips.

The Sports and Tourism Ministers is still in quarantine after having close contact with Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 2 weeks ago.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket begs Kolour attendees to come for Covid-19 testing

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Phuket begs Kolour attendees to come for Covid-19 testing | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Kolour in the park was more pleasant in 2018 before Covid-19.

Health officials in Phuket put out a public statement this week compelling all foreigners who attended clubs and ‘Kolour’ events to report for Covid-19 testing. As many might expect, the response has been lacklustre at best. Spreading the message around the foreigner and expat community in Phuket, the message is aimed at the multitudes of people, mostly foreign who attended Kolour and related events that turned into a Covid-19 superspreader event. Many foreigners have not come forward, much to health officials chagrin.

Online and on social media, foreigners and Thais shed light on why this urgent public health request is going largely unheeded. Foreigners fear the repercussions of coming forward, especially since Thailand is not allowing staying home or elsewhere in isolation if someone tests positive for Covid-19. Quarantine is mandatory, and with infection numbers exploding across the country, many fear the less-than-posh comforts of being quarantined in an emergency field hospital.

Cost is the other factor that likely is preventing foreigners from turning themselves in to be tested for Covid-19. While Phuket health officials may test people for free, anyone found infected with Covid-19 will be financially responsible for all the costs of their treatment and quarantine. Foreigners with limited financial resources, especially after a year of holing up in Thailand to ride out the Coronavirus, may resist reporting to authorities when they cannot afford the mandatory quarantine and medical treatment.

Perhaps recognizing this hesitation, the message includes a plea for all attendees to self-quarantine and self-monitor for any symptoms over the next week, even if they fail to report or test negative. The note also reminds everyone to wear masks in public at all times. The statement to the public also instructed anyone who attended any of the Covid-19 spreading nightlife events to report to the Acute Respiratory Infection Clinic area of Vachira General Hospital to receive a Covid-19 swab test.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions

Tim Newton

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Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | Thaiger

Three of Thailand’s biggest expat areas are seeing sharp rises in new infections, partly from pre-Songkran traffic. The Songkran holidays, now officially over (but will see many people taking today off and making a weekend Songkran extension), and the government says they are expecting to see a rise in the cases numbers reported in the popular holiday locations.

Chon Buri Public Health office says they now have a total of 910 infections since April 1. They have 103 new cases in the past 24 hours. Most new cases are in Bang Lamung district which includes Pattaya City with 47, Siracha with 12) & Chon buri City with 8.

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | News by Thaiger

Meanwhile Phuket has a total of 142 infections recorded on the island with the Governor still insisting there will be no need for a lockdown. Here’s a breakdown of the areas and the numbers of recorded infections so far (below).

Governor Narong announced that the Phuket Infectious Disease Control Committee won’t be implementing an official lockdown, but will “strictly raise the intensity of public health measures to counter the spread of Covid-19″.

“Everyone should wear a face mask, maintain social distancing, wash their hands frequently and install the Mor Chana app (available for free from App Store and Google Play Store).”

A meeting of the CCSA, chaired by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to upgrade restrictions in red zone areas around the country, which includes Phuket and Pattaya. Read more about the latest red and orange zones HERE.

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | News by Thaiger

For Hua Hin expats, there’s been 100 new Covid-19 infections announced in Prachuap Khiri Khan in the past 24 hours, 75 cases from Hua Hin. This takes the total in the province since April 1 to 625. Hua Hin accounts for nearly 90% of the district’s total cases.

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