I got back to Beijing about two weeks ago and it’s been a slew of things to take care of… First things first, did you know that there are two types of internet here in Beijing? No, it’s not dial-up versus DSL. Internet service here is provided by China Unicom, 中国联通, and there are 2 types of service that they provide. The first is DSL service (or as they call ADSL), as far as I can tell it’s the same as the States, where you connect the modem trough the phoneline. This service has different connection speeds for different prices, starting with RMB120/month for 512kb and going to 1MB of service or even 10MB. This comes with an installation fee of something around RMB250. Of course, you also need to have a landline number, which can be ‘parked’ (as in, not in service), just to have the internet for RMB5/month or left open to use for RMB15 or so. I’ve been told this is the way to go, with a faster connection speed than internet service number two.
The second type of internet has an installation fee of RMB180 and costing RMB120/month. Sounds like a good deal right? I think it is, for the casual internet user. This is internet that is shared through the whole apartment community or complex; there’s a direct ethernet cable that comes out of the wall for you to plug into (after you have the installation, which is basically setting up an account and password with a China Unicom technician who comes to the apartment). This internet is shared among the complex, so if a lot of people have plugged in, then the internet will be slower than if fewer people are using it. I’m not sure what the connection speed is (because the service technician was being secretive… but I believe it’s 10MB). This is what I currently have due to logistics, that I hope to have worked out in the next few weeks. I’ll say right now, I’m not 100% satisfied. During peak usage (in the evenings), it’s difficult to use the VPN, if not impossible. And I experienced last night that Skype voice calls can be shaky as well.
If you’re interested in hearing more gripes and struggles read on; otherwise, that’s the gist of getting internet.
We Americans are embracing the idea of locally owned and operated, but what about locally operated and nationally owned? Here begins my struggle two weeks ago, when trying to get Internet. My roommate (who’s Chinese, but not familiar with this process) and I went to the big company of China Unicom at a main office location not so far away. We decided we wanted to get the ADSL internet, but the desk workers told us that we couldn’t get Internet (regardless of what kind, above) because #1 there’s currently a phone line (that we dont’ have the number to), already installed. And #2 the pervious tenants had already paid 2 months in advance for the community use Internet and we don’t have their password, therefore we can’t use or access it. What?! No internet for 2 months?? Haha, who knew that my life was so dependent on Internet. I was prepared to go to cafes nearby for the next week or so until the installation was complete, but 2 months?
Well, they could try to have a service technician check it out and see if an additional phone line could be added. OK, sure. And 5 hours later, I got a phone call from the service technician explaining that we could NOT get an additional phone line. Oh, that sucks. Back to China Unicom to refund my money and see if there are any other options…
The current phone line installed in the apartment is owned by my landlord (who lives outside of Beijing). We were able to get the phone number from him and see what we could do. At the same China Unicom office, they had their hands tied and there’s nothing they could do. It turns out that our landlord (remember, doesn’t live in Beijing), must go to any Beijing office in person, to identify himself and the owner of that phone line in order to change any sort of service.. aka adding ADSL to the phone service. It can’t just be any China Unicom office?? It muuust be a local Beijing office! Well, the landlord could also go online to sign up for the service. Great! But, the landlord must show proof of identification during time of installation. What a hassle; we were stuck. No ADSL service, and no ethernet service.
Our housing agent, who has been super helpful through this whole process, found a small neighborhood, ‘local’ China Unicom office in our apartment complex. The one man who runs this small office, along with (apparently) a team of technicians, claimed (and has now successfully) installed the community ethernet connection for us. During the whole process, I was (and still am) very confused. How is it that this small, sparse, concrete room with only a desk, file cabinet, and 2 chairs not communicate with the larger office, where bills are paid and has an electronic ticket dispenser for queing. How could the large office have no information about what this one-man-show could do? It seems as if there is no communication among China Unicom, afterall it’s more than just brand name usage at each location…
Among other instances, I’ve learned that there’s little transparencey and clear communication in China. Or perhaps, is this just business as usual in the developing world? Regardless, make sure you ask all the questions possible because information is never (or rarely) volunteered. It must have to do with the way that people are brought up or how the country is run, or just the cultural ingrainment of the idea of “listen and don’t question”…another topic for another day.
In the mean time, I’m wired!
(I bought a wireless router, but have yet to be able to set it up…With minimal bargaining, I was charged under 100RMB at one of the electronics shops in Zhongguancun, 中关村. Be sure to specify a router (路由器：lu4 you2 qi4) that’s wireless (无线：wu2 xian4).)