Tech Tips – Foreign Country Internet Setup

Tech Tips / Friday, January 27th, 2012

A year ago, when I moved into my apartment, I wasn’t the smartest person. I let myself be convinced there was no way I could have gotten internet in my apartment because my counterpart told me so. I was convinced that she knew more on the subject than I did because she could understand the language. She said no internet for me because I had no phone line. But no, I protested, I can get internet through the cable company. She told me no such thing existed. I believed her.

Back home, I worked with computers. I studied networking and programming and I was sure I knew more than only the common knowledge about how the internet worked. I had no idea how that knowledge applied outside of American borders. I let the resounding, “No, it can’t be done” slide because for all I knew it couldn’t be, even though my site-mates had cable internet. I resolved myself to use the Kievstar modem. Then, after eight months, I woke up. I decided enough was enough. I sought the help of my Ukrainian friends.

Personally, I think volunteers should do what they can to have internet access. It’s a great way to keep in touch with friends and family. When it comes to lesson planning and project research, the internet is a great resource. But the level of internet access varies depending on the volunteer. I was completely content putting up with the slow speeds of the Kievstar modem because it was better than nothing but more importantly it kept me from spending all day on the internet. Others find that it’s hard to live without being able to see our favorite shows from back home or to video chat with our friends. The rest probably fall somewhere between.

While I can’t give you step-by-step directions for getting internet at your site nor can I tell you what is your best option because every site has different circumstances, I will give you a suggestion on where to look if your counterpart convinces you that it can’t be done. Always ask around. People were more than willing to help me when I started asking; only my counterpart was less helpful than I’d hoped. Neighbors with internet are a good place to start because they can help you get what they have. Just make sure to clear things with your landlord or landlady first.

Start with the internet clubs. These typically run 8 UAH/hour. It certainly a reasonable amount for everyone basic internet needs. A couple of them by me even serve beer so I can have a cold one while checking my mail.

If your town doesn’t have an internet club, or a questionable crowd hangs out there and you’d prefer to avoid it if possible, it’s best to start looking for options you can use at home. If you have a landline in your apartment, chances are you can get dialup access or ADSL access (there’s no guarantee in the smaller villages though). If you have a cable company in town and they offer internet access, chances are that they can hook your place up for a small fee if it isn’t already hooked up. Pricing varies depending on the service and the internet speed you choose. In my town, the prices range from 60UAH/month for slow speeds all the way to 200UAH/month for the faster speeds. I have the slowest speed and it’s more than fast enough for all the work I do on the internet.

As a last resort, I suggest getting a 3G modem through one of the cell phone carriers in your area. Some carriers who offer 3G modems are Kievstar, Life:), and Beeline. Be warned, unless you live in one of the big cities, odds are that you won’t be getting full 3G speeds. Also, look at the special offers and see if they work in your advantage. For example, when I bought a Kievstar modem last year for 199UAH, I got two months free of unlimited access. Each month after that for the equivalent amount was roughly 150UAH. It made more sense to buy a new modem every two months than to refill. Whatever you choose, make sure to check the cell coverage for that particular carrier where you’ll be using the internet the most. It wouldn’t be good if you came home with your new modem only to find out it doesn’t get reception in your apartment.

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