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| by Miguel Centellas | March 08, 2004 at 04:29 PM | comments (0) | trackback (0)

It's good that there's at least one company offering public (for the time being, free) Wi-Fi service in La Paz, Bolivia. It's not good that it's unreliable — or that it has no online tech-support (not much better phone support; their idea of support is "can you wait a minute?"). Únete offers wireless internet access from La Terraza. But. There are snags.

First, La Terraza Café is built on the Starbucks business model (bad enough on its own). But that also means its employees aren't told anything about the Wi-Fi & can offer no tech support.

Second, w/ the exception of the Prado location, the wireless network rarely works at the other two locations. It has improved at the Sopocachi location, but sometimes the signal drops suddenly. I've never been able to connect from the San Miguel location.

Third, at least at the Sopocachi location, the problem's hardware related. The sudden drops in service coincide w/ the turning on of a blender or other electronic device. Conclusion? It's obviously causing interference w/ the Wi-Fi signal. Call tech support & tell them this? They don't believe you, since "theoretically" there should be no such interference. But you can't argue w/ empirical evidence!

The only good point's that they haven't started charging for usage yet. Of course, I find charging for Wi-Fi access heretical. But at least I don't have to pay for an overall shit service.

Bottom line: Don't bother relying on Wi-Fi anywhere except the Prado's La Terraza. It's not worth the headache or waste of time (or battery life). If you really need online access & are stuck in San Miguel (Zona Sur) — go to a cybercafé, even if they're more expensive (at least twice the cost) of downtown cybercafés. If you can, wait to head up to the Prado.

BTW, for internet cafés, I highly recommend that AES spot (big yellow & green sign) on Villazón, across the street from the UMSA. It's only Bs.3/hour w/ fast machines (758 Kbps) running Windows XP. And they actually know what they're doing.

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