This is part 2 of 2. Click here to go back to Part 1.
The end of the CANTV journey
Life has given me many, many countless headaches, a fair share of them have been courtesy of CANTV and the precarious state of its ADSL infrastructure in the area where I live. We got CANTV’s ADSL service installed way back in 2002, with blazing fast 256kbps download speeds that saw a few upgrades through time until it reached 4mbps in late 2013.
20 years after it got installed and well…you can’t expect all that wiring to last forever, can you?
All government censorship and throttling in heated protest/political crisis times aside, we never had any major problems with it until a few years ago, when the cabling in the area began to succumb to wear and tear, and the speed and stability of the connection began to drop severely until there was a mayor outage in the entire area that left us more than a month without internet in 2020.
Even this apartment’s internal phone wiring had a fair share of jury rigging done by yours truly through the years to keep the line working. At some point I used an exacto knife, a screwdriver, and a bunch of medical adhesive tape to ‘repair’ the line.
I started having issues with that ADSL again back in July 2021, and I had to force throttle my 4mbps line down to 3 to keep it more stable and make it disconnect with less frequency. The upload speed, though, dropped from 0.75mbps down to 0.13, a nightmare whenever I had to upload anything over 100MB.
Still, I suckered it up because there was nothing I could do at the time, and I had other plans to leave the country (that fell apart), so dealing with an extremely bad internet connection for just a few more months until I worked a visa solution was of no issue.
What broke the camel’s straw was what happened in November 2021. One morning, the whole thing just stopped working, and the timing couldn’t have been less opportune, because I was a couple days away from a very important internet call that I couldn’t miss (the one that crushed all my hopes and aspirations for a visa at the time).
That was the point where I started to seriously consider hiring one of those expensive WISP providers. One of the handful I had reached out to last year had just recently installed a series of relay antennas on the roof of an almost abandoned mall that’s not too far from my home, and with direct line of sight to boot — additionally, they allow you to pay the hefty setup fee ($270) in 3 parts, so they were my prime candidate.
I almost go with it out of desperation, but was stopped by my neighbors, who insisted that I needed to write a letter to every neighbor, explaining what I intend to have installed in the building, the specifications of the antenna (weight, size etc), and explain why I should have it installed in the first place in terms of benefits to the community and whatnot. I could only get permission to do so if I had 2/3rds of the vote. Considering that plenty of neighbors have already left Venezuela well — good luck getting the votes.
With no other options, I had no choice but to pay a CANTV employee to have him reconnect me, a small price in the grand scheme of things. This had the unintended side effect of actually repairing my line completely, to the point that even our landline phone, which stopped working in 2018, was working again, and we had our speeds back to where they’re supposed to be (4mbps down / 0.75mbps up).
The values of the ADSL line (snr and attenuation) were so optimal that I even tried to bump our plan to 6 or 8mbps to no avail. Still, the line was working exceptionally good, and for a time all was good.
Some weeks later, a group of CANTV staff tinkered around and the damn thing started to malfunction again. That ADSL line didn’t even last one full month before going back to the same instability and progressive degradation of speeds.
Then the problem began to spread again to my neighbors, and I brought up the subject of the WISP provider along with all the explanations as to why the ADSL line kept disconnecting for everyone and all that. I got no response until a few days later, when one of my neighbors contacted me out of the blue to see what we could do with regards to getting a WISP service setup.
She brought up a provider, and I brought up my candidate. A third one joined us but he had no proposal. I assisted the technical visits of both providers. The one my neighbor reached out to said they could give us service but here was the catch, they only had plans for 4, 6, and 10mbps.
The setup fee was cheaper ($125) but the monthly fees were rather high for those speeds — and to make matters worse, they would only ‘guarantee’ half of that speed at any given time during the day, you’d only get the full package during off peak hours.
With regards to the provider I brought to the table, they have two types of plans: dedicated and shared. Dedicated gives you the speed you hire, no ifs and buts, but it’s substantially expensive. The shared ones, though, cost far less, but have a variable speed during the day based on network demand.
The latter is the one that I could somewhat afford, and with the help of my lads, I picked the most ‘cost effective one,’ which ranges from 6 to 24mbps both download and upload. My reasoning was that even if it’d go all the way down to 6mbps at one point, it’d still be higher than CANTV’s 4 (down to 3 again after it malfunctioned).
Eventually my neighbors decided to go with the one I contacted, and the plan was to split the setup fee costs among the three of us. That was all fine and dandy until the third neighbor bailed out at the last moment, and the other one shortly afterwards.
I reached out to other neighbors that could be interested, but no one wanted to jump on it. Eventually I had the help of an absolute king to help pay for the setup fee on my own, and I just rolled with it, no letter, no permission, at that point I didn’t care anymore lmao, what’s done is done now.
So they installed the small antenna, ran that CAT 5 all the way down to my home, and passed it through one of the unfinished areas in this apartment and all the way to my room.
A few minutes later and bam, I leaped ahead from ADSL to WISP in the same manner I leaped from 56k to ADSL in 2002, almost 20 years since we first got that ADSL line setup down to the date.
It’s not all fun and games though, I’ve had my fair share of problems with this ISP.
In terms of speed it is what they promised, sometimes I drop down to 15 or 10mbps during peak afternoon hours, but I usually hover above that, with the full 24mbps during late night and mornings.
The upload, one of the guys that installed it said, is uncapped, so there’s times where it goes all the way up to 60mbps or more — even when it doesn’t and it’s at anywhere between the 6-24mbps that I pay for, uploading files feels like bliss compared to the 0.13-0.75mbps I had been struggling with.
Latency, however, has been the main hurdle. It’s not fiber nor a wired connection, so I’m aware it’ll never match that, but there’s been days when it’s just atrocious. Right now it’s working perfectly for most of the day, but between 8:30-11:30pm it gets pretty high, and almost double in most games.
I dabbled in streaming for a bit, and ran into latency/routing issues that I alleviated through a VPN. I haven’t tried again recently because I’m kinda sleepy by the time latency normalizes past 11pm and because I was busy with the whole paperwork thing throughout the year.
This is the best it’s been behaving, and that’s after weeks of back and forth with their tech support. At some point they changed something trying to fix it and the connection became atrocious for a day or two, so I guess it’s best to leave it like this for now, the bottleneck during those 3 hours seems to be on their end according to tracert.
It’s still rather expensive for what it is, but I simply have no other choice at internet service in the area. This zone is a black hole in that regard, and the rest of the providers that do provide service here are far more expensive than this one. With the internet being a growing necessity for work, I’ve known people in this city that have had to move elsewhere to have an internet connection to keep working with.
I must confess that the bump in bandwidth feels good, because now my brother can watch his stuff and game while I do mine without having to share 3-4mbps between the two of us for everything.
Being able to stream what I’m working on Discord when working with others is extremely useful as well, because with CANTV I’d have to send previews (at 0.13mbps to boot) to showcase progress and whatnot.
The one caveat in all of this is that it works, and that they literally accept almost everything as payment, even crypto, that’s about it. Until they solve the latency issues I cannot fully recommend this ISP, and even so it’s still a bit pricey for me. Eventually, one of the neighbors that had backed out joined, and got connected to the antenna, the ISP refunded me her part of the setup fee, so there’s that.
As for the CANTV line, it eventually broke down again in the whole area not too long ago, so I was one of the two only apartments in the building that had internet outside of mobile data during that time.
It was not fully repaired but instead they just patched it up again. It’s working ok, for now, and it’s our auxiliary connection whenever the main one goes down (which happens every now and then for a few minutes, or when they do maintenance). The government keeps raising its price so I’m this close to just ditching it.
Despite being the capital of the country (or perhaps because of it), internet connectivity in Caracas is an absolute mess, but that is one of the many tradeoffs that comes with living in this city, because sure, internet is an expensive disaster here, but power is substantially more stable than the rest of the country, and at least you get a few days of water per week, as opposed to once every couple months as is the case in some states.
Just because its a private ISP that doesn’t mean I can lower my guard through, I still keep a VPN most of the time to mask my traffic, because at the end of the day, it is the Venezuelan regime that signed off the operating license to this ISP, which they proudly flaunt about in their social media accounts, and with all this precedent of phone wiretapping and traffic intercepting well…
Once our passport stuff goes through I’ll see what to do with this service, either pass it to someone or just suspend it, but for now, I hope it delivers what it promises, and what I have to pay for as well.
Until the next one,