Spain, the Internet, and Me—All My Internets Are Belong to … ?

I’m a Millennial. (I scored 34/100 on the Pew Research Center “How Millennial Are You?” Quiz., so maybe not that Millennial.) And despite what you may have heard about us, we’re not all spoiled brats who don’t value hard work. But one thing that almost of all us do value: high-speed Internet. I use it for everything: reading news, social networking, watching television, listening to music, talking to my family/friends in another country, and much more.

We first got the Internet at home when I was in fifth grade (this would be 1998 or so). We had dial-up, and we all shared an email address. Conveniently, that address was kaley@serviceprovider.com. It was slow, I’m sure, but I don’t recall the slowness because it was all so new and I didn’t have anything with which to compare it, although I do recall counting to ten while waiting for certain pages to load. Also: lots of chain emails about BSB vs. ’N Sync. In high school, we got DSL. DSL was amazingly fast back then! Of course, I rarely did anything on the computer but use Yahoo!Messenger to chat with my boyfriend. Oh, and do my homework, of course.

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Then came college. Internet was fast and cheap (if not free). The whole campus was connected to wifi: inside, outside, even down in the library basement. Ah, the good old days.

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Leaving the land of fast, free Internet for my second venture to Spain in 2009

My first encounter with Spanish Internet was while studying abroad in Toledo. My friend had warned me that the Internet at the residence was abysmal, so I went in with low expectations. But these low expectations had to be lowered as well. The Internet worked about 50% of the time, but I never knew when or where to place myself in the building so that it would work. Skype conversations were all but impossible. I counted myself lucky, though, because most students lived with host families who—gasp!—didn’t even have Internet! To my “spoiled” self, not having Internet in 2008 was just weird. I mean, I could understand if you were 70+. But young university students all living together? That was just foreign to me.

Nowadays, in 2012, it seems to me that having Internet and Wi-Fi at home is much more common than it was just four years ago, in 2008. But it’s still way slower than I’m used to. Most people still have DSL. It’s not slow, but it’s not like the cable Internet I was used to in the States.

Another thing I don’t get: we live in Madrid, a large, cosmopolitan city with over three million residents. And only two companies could actually install Internet in our home: Movistar and Orange. No Jazztel, which everyone tells us to is the best offer. Nope, no such luck. I hadn’t heard good things about Orange, and Movistar is basically a monopoly, and who doesn’t love Monopoly? Thus, we chose Movistar. However, we found out that their DSL would only be able to provide us with an Internet speed that’s slow as molasses—and yes, that’s the technical term. So we’re (rather reluctantly) making the upgrade to fibra, fiber-optic Internet, which is indeed fast, but also expensive. But we’ve been waiting on them to come and upgrade for a week, and there have been no calls. Patience, patience …

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the molasses.

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12 comments

    1. Isn’t it crazy to you?! But things have changed. Businesses now have websites, Twitter, Facebook — I think they’re finally realizing they need such things to function nowadays. The US is ahead of the curve in that sense, but I see Spain beginning to catch up!

    1. You are the Millennialist! I’m surprised that I only got 34, honestly; I’ve always worn the Millennial badge with pride. I hate chronological snobbery and the reverse (idealizing the past).

  1. When I studied abroad in Malaga, my host mother didn’t have Internet either! She was somewhere in her 60s and grew up before the digital age so I understood why she didn’t have Internet. However she was constantly hosting foreign students who were accustomed to having Internet. I eventually managed to figure out there was some kind of Internet connection that was strong enough for my computer to get ahold of out on the balcony of the second floor of her house. However if it rained, I was screwed and couldn’t sit out there (plus it was getting cold too since it was fall and I couldn’t plan to stay out there all semester!). My program director eventually convinced her to get Internet for me, though I’m not sure who ended up paying for it–my school or my host mother. So after a month and a half with no real Internet (aside from the sketchy connection out on the balcony), I was all good to go!

    I used Movistar for a year and the connection was so slow. I lived with 4 American girls and none of us could Skype at the same time–it made the reception on Skype calls all schizo and would shut down Skype. When I moved, we tried to get Orange and they sent us a modem that didn’t work! After multiple calls to customer service all with people saying something different (No, the technician can’t come look at the modem/Has a technician been there?/Have you tried troubleshooting it?), we cancelled the Orange service and went with Jazztel. Never had a problem with Jazztel, it was so much faster than Movistar, the Internet never timed out and Skype calls were amazing! Funniest part was, we cancelled the Orange service and AFTER the technician finally came to our apartment to check out the modem.

    Espana, I do not miss your Internet troubles. :D

  2. I’m baffled as to why so many countries in Europe have not caught up completely with the digital age. It’s not just poorer countries like Spain or Poland either. Even wealthier countries like Belgium and the UK are still lagging way behind the US. Like it’s hard to find free wi-fi anywhere and the paid connections aren’t very good. I didn’t know what to expect when I moved to Australia, but I was so glad they had high speed internet connections and free wi-fi everywhere! The only thing I don’t like is that you don’t get unlimited internet with your home connection. You get a certain number of gigabytes a month and that’s it. And it’s like $200 a month for a package that will accommodate a fair bit of Skyping and YouTubing. I think I paid $125 a month in America for Comcast, which was unlimited internet, plus expanded cable TV. But pretty much anytime I go to Europe, I end up buying a wi-fi dongle but even though it’s expensive, it’s much less hassle than trying to find a free connection.

  3. What?! I clearly take internet for granted! I cannot even stand it when it’s a little slow, I can’t imagine the frustratio with low internet all of the time. You deserve a medal of patience my friend!

  4. At least you have something! We´re still trying to convince Telefónica that our building isn´t caught in a time warp in the 18th century. We tried fibre optic and was told that was impossible too!

  5. Oh girl, I remember it taking us 2 weeks to have internet installed.Such a frustrating time. And this post made me laugh because when I studied abroad in Madrid, the house where I lived didn’t have internet AT ALL. It was so absurd to me. Now, I can’t even check the mail without my iPhone attached to my palm…. this too is quite absurd.

  6. Don’t be too hard on Madrid just because your wireless connection isn’t too great. In a few years, everywhere will have crystal clear coverage, and what will be the joy in leaving the house? Pictures against recognisably foreign backdrops I guess… I like your style though, I read your posts in a breathless Paris Hilton accent in my head, and I don’t mean that in a bad way!

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