Spain finally enters the 21st century

After a long and exhausting time researching DSL offers, we decided to go ahead and order a DSL connection for the family home in Spain, in order to replace the old Modem BL/\STER 56k connection with something a little more decent. That was past Saturday, and I was really fearing something in the order of a couple of weeks wait, but the service was activated yesterday (Monday).

The welcome pack, with the modem and line filters and everything else has been delivered today, but since I had brought with me my trusty Netgear DG834G and had noted the configuration parameters for the new provider, I let the curious cat in me act on Monday, and directly plugged the router into the socket, without filters whatsoever (because the filter that came originally with that router used the British plug standard and it wouldn't work with Spain's sockets). Lo and behold, the router was able to sync, and the connection speed was almost 100% the one we had requested! And the latter is nothing short of a miracle, considering the poor thin non twisted and badly isolated wiring which we have here.

I was nicely impressed, but still wondered whether the SIM card I had requested from Simyo on Sunday would arrive before I left for the second part of my Spain holidays, when suddenly the door bell rang and the postman showed up to deliver the SIM card. I just couldn't believe it!

It has only been a matter of minutes to activate the new SIM card, and begin browsing from my mobile phone at a ridiculous price and very good speed. The web control panel, where you can get all sorts of quickly updated stats and info and control everything about your account (even cancelling it) is also tremendously good, clear and blazing fast. I still haven't had the opportunity of playing too much with it since I'm finally able to use DSL for the moment being, but I have the feeling that it won't disappoint me when we get lost in a southern town next week and the only internet access point is some sort of improvised cybercafe hidden in the back of a computer store with very erratic business opening times :-)

But but but... where are the moanings?

I know most of the old readers of this blog are somehow fond of reading my rantings about Spain, and might be slightly distraught with all these great things of late. So let's talk about the other side of the coin.

The first and probably most outrageous difference of all is the price. For less than what you pay for a basic 1 Megabit connection in Spain, we get 24 Megabit connections in the UK.

Choosing a price plan is also very hard, since the copywriting is incredibly (and maybe deliberately) confusing. You get offered, say, "An X euro/month plan" but the (very) small print reveals that it's X for 8 months only, and X*1.5 later, with a 12 month minimum contract length, or a payable penalty if you cancel before the minimum contract period.

The online sign up process is cumbersome and slow. To begin with, it seems to work only during business hours: I tried to sign up past 23h and it gave me an strange and undecipherable error. I repeated it the next day around midday, and ... tada, it worked! Then, the form for looking up your home address couldn't find my street until I tried several times. There are also badly programmed pop ups everywhere which have to be unblocked in order to complete the sign up process, and to top it all, there's an extreme amount of unnecessary mark up which painfully slows down everything, with silly ideas such as using long alt tags such as "Esquina superior izquierda" ("top left corner") for rounded corner images, instead of leaving them blank. It's not that I looked at the source code in a moment of boredom, it is that it was that slow that I could read everything while the page loaded.

In contrast, when we signed up for Be in the UK, we completed the process in a couple of minutes, well out of business hours, and got complete traceability of the installation and activation process from day 1.

Ironically, Be is owned by O2 which is owned by Telefonica which is the DSL provider we chose. I really hope Telefonica follows the good example from Be and all my Spanish friends can enjoy decent speeds at a decent price.

Meanwhile, Be could follow the example of East Asian providers and begin upgrading our line to 100+ Megabit so that I can moan about slow 24Megabit lines when I am back in Spain and say that I miss my 100 Megabit line in the UK ;-)