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Phuket Live Wire: Anatomy of a land line meltdown

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Live Wire: Anatomy of a land line meltdown | The Thaiger

PHUKET: As I continued my pursuit of a decent internet connection in Phuket for the house I’m moving into, a funny thing happened. That’s funny as in strange, not funny as in hilarious.

Depending on where you lived in Thailand, at about 2am on Friday morning, February 15, if you had internet service from TOT your line went down. Again, depending on where you lived, the line came back up about 11am to 2pm. That’s more-or-less 12 hours with absolutely no internet connection, anywhere in Thailand. And, as best I can tell, it happened to every single TOT customer – Phuket, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Isaan.

What about hot swapping? What about redundant switches? What about alternate backup sites? I mean, this is the internet, for heaven’s sake. It was designed and built to take a nuclear attack and keep on working. Sure, you get occasional outages for an hour if some idiot is asleep at the wheel and the system is set for manual routing (which should never be the case, but it happens). City blocks can get shut off if somebody digs with a backhoe and takes out the trunk line to the block. Servers can go down if they’re taken out by viruses, or if the power goes out and the generator doesn’t work – but any organization worth its salt has alternate sites that can be fired up within minutes.

But an entire country going offline for 12 hours? That’s the kind of thing you expect if Iran’s government pulls the plug, or if Syria suddenly decides its citizens shouldn’t be able to communicate. Indeed, it happened last November in Syria, from November 29 to December 1. In this case, though, the cause doesn’t appear to be politically motivated. It’s simply incompetence. I think.

The fact is that nobody knows why the internet went out. I’ve seen two plausible explanations, neither of which sounds encouraging. The first reason, reported by a local newspaper, was that TOT’s “main server in Bangkok crashed.” The second reason, reported on ThaiVisa, was that two fiber optic cables in southern Thailand were severed concurrently – “one was cut by nibbling squirrels (or possibly mice), the other by someone planting palm oil trees.”

The first explanation doesn’t ring true, at least to me. TOT’s main switch for domestic use, known as AS 9737, has a huge 120 Gbps connection to the TOT Local Network Internet Exchange switch identified as AS 37930 – yes, all of these big switches have numbers that identify them uniquely. But AS 9737 also has a backup connection at 22 Gbps to the CAT exchange AS4652 in Bangrak. CAT didn’t go down, so there should have been backup internet access immediately available to TOT. How a failure in a “server” – most likely a switch, and probably AS 37930 – could’ve taken out all domestic internet baffles me.

As for the second proffered reason – remember, neither of these are official explanations – I just don’t buy it. If all of TOT’s internet traffic, domestic and international, relies on two fiber optic cables in southern Thailand, the people who set up the network topology for the TOT system should hang up their white lab coats. And if the people in charge of watching the lines saw one of them go down, they should’ve had an army out fixing it immediately. I guess it’s possible that 1) the TOT routing system was totally borked and 2) a squirrel chewed through a line and 3) a palm oil tree digger cut a second line, all simultaneously. Somehow, I seriously doubt it.

Here’s what I know for sure: On the Phuket Gazette website, reader “Annoyed” said, “I have not had an internet connection for 24 hours; this morning I was finally able to get back on line. The TOT customer service lady was impatient (obviously stressed out with so many callers having similar problems), her English was slurred, and she was at times not even polite. Having been unable to conduct business because of the TOT problem we really didn’t need to add TOT rudeness.”

Reader “Agogohome” said, “Did I report it? Nope! It’s not worth the phone call or visit, just to receive the usual surprised response, and their worthless promises.”

And there’s the rub.

First, it’s hard for me to accept that the largest internet service provider (ISP) in the country just went dead for more-or-less 12 (or 24) hours. It shouldn’t even be possible.

Second, there’s no notification about system-wide outages. When internet services in other parts of the world go down, there’s a web site people can go to, to see up-to-the-minute information about what caused the problem, and how long it’ll take to fix it.

Third, even the employees don’t know what’s happening. I see that happening over and over again in Phuket: there’s a widespread internet problem, a customer calls the hotline, and they’re told that they’re the first ones to report it. If that doesn’t fly because the customer’s too savvy, the employee on the phone says that (choose your favorite nonsensical excuse) happened, and they have no idea when it’ll be fixed. They may even offer to send out a technician, knowing full well that a hundred other people have reported the same problem.

It’s all about communication. Painfully, our ISPs don’t seem to understand that their customers would appreciate some frank explanations. Rabid customers would also stop calling the support lines incessantly if they could just find some information they can trust.

I’m not picking on TOT – they’re not the only offenders. Since February 11, I’ve had widespread reports of outages on the True DOCSIS 20 Mbps system. (DOCSIS is the technology that relies on coax (similar to a cable TV cable), that’s only available in select parts of the island. True calls it “Ultra.”) While the “fast” DOCSIS 20 Mbps line was down, it looks like the “slow” DOCSIS 10 Mbps line was up and running fine. We’ve had complaints of bad lines at phuketinternetspeed.com, and I’ve seen similar complaints on the ThaiVisa.com forums, but there’s been nothing official.

So what really happened? It’s likely that we’ll never know. I’ve seen exactly zero reports of the TOT outage in the mainstream Thai press – a phenomenal lack of concern.

Perhaps the outage originated as a failure of the ICT Ministry’s website blocking system, which according to the Washington Post allows the government to shut down all internet in Thailand in a few minutes. Cuba, Ethiopia, Lybia, North Korea, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Yemen, and a few African countries have similar systems. I just don’t know.

Unless the government announces an open inquiry, the outage will probably just be ignored. I won’t hold my breath.

Moral for you: the Second Law of Landlines in Phuket, as was espoused last week in this column.

Never get one landline internet connection. Get two, on two separate lines, from two different ISPs. That won’t protect you if the whole country goes internet-dark. But it should handle anything short of a catastrophic failure.

Our regular weekly computer clinic roundtables continue every Sunday morning, 10:00 at Sandwich Shoppe Chalong (in English) and 11:00 at Sandwich Shoppe Patong (in German). 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. It’s always free. 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, — Woody Leonhard

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.



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Crime

Phuket police arrest meth dealer, discover drugs valued at 15 million baht

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Phuket police arrest meth dealer, discover drugs valued at 15 million baht | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Newshawk Phuket

Drugs valued at 15 million baht have been seized in a drug crackdown in Phuket. On October 22, Phuket police, along with Phuket Governor Pakkapong Tawipat, reported to the media about a drug crackdown that ended up with a total seizure valued around 15 million baht.

Earlier, the police received a report from an undercover agent that a woman named ‘Ying’ or ‘Suthicha Thirawut’ was a local drug dealer trading drugs in Phuket area, so police planned to purchase drugs from the woman. They contacted Ying through another woman named ‘Noina’, Ying’s close friend. Around 10pm on October 20, police bought 1 gram of crystal methamphetamine from Noina before arresting Ying and another man, Thanet Thongtan, at the Naka Condominium.

The two confessed that they receive the drug from a man who they weren’t able to name, in order to sell in Phuket. They were paid 40,000 – 50,000 baht per time and admitted to police that they have done this for the man three times already. This time, the drugs hadn’t been sold to customers as they were arrested before being able to make a sale.

Apart from 2.4 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, valued around 4.8 million baht, the police also discovered 76,800 methamphetamine pills, worth around 11 million baht.

The three are now assisting Phuket police with their enquires related to the case.

SOURCE: Newshawk Phuket

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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