Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Great Internet SNAFU of 2011

The Great Internet SNAFU of 2011
This is too good (bad) not to write about it. (Don is contributing this, with some comments by me.)

Saturday, 08 October

We arrive on Roatan and proceed to our house.  I set up the HughesNet modem and turn on the power.  The modem has four lights lit.  I need five.  The transmit and receive lights are lit, but the system light is not lit.  I’ve never seen this configuration.
I power up the computer and bring up a browser.  Immediately a window pops up.  It says our HughesNet service has been suspended.
WHAT?  We’ve been paying for it all year.  Payment is withdrawn monthly automatically from our checking account.  Who suspended it?  Why?
There is a 1-866 number for questions.  The problem is that we have no phone.  The Blackberry is the world phone.  We have a separate phone for calls inside Honduras.  It can also be used to call outside the country.  That phone needs to be activated if not used for three months.  We have been out of the country for six months.  We are out of luck today.  We have a cleaning crew at the house.  By the time they finish, it will be too late to go to French Harbor to have the phone activated.

Sunday, 09 October

No action.  Everything is closed.

Monday, 10 October

We go to French Harbor and get the Honduras phone activated.  The HughesNet office is right up the street, so we go there next.  The office is empty.  No sign of HughesNet, no sign on the door telling where they moved.  This is common here.
We call the 1-866 number.  No connecto.  We try again.  Same result.  We think okay, they moved somewhere around here, and French Harbor isn’t that big.  We’ll find them.  We drove around French Harbor for an hour.  We asked people where they moved.  No one knew anything.
We stopped by a real estate office who also used HughesNet, or so we were told. They looked up Carolina Castro's phone number. Carolina ran the now missing HughesNet office. I called her and asked where she was (meaning, where is the office located now). She replied, in her broken English, "Coxen Hole, near Serrano's."  Okay, now we knew why we couldn’t find the office in French Harbor.  We also knew where Serrano’s (a big hardware and lumber store) was located. 
We had other business we had to take care of.  Late in the afternoon we drug ourselves back home.

Tuesday, 11 October

We set out for The Hole.
We drove up and down the street that Serrano’s was on.  No sign of the HughesNet office. We stopped at Serrano's and Jeanette went in to ask Deborah if she knew anything. No, she did not but suggested asking next door. Two men were outside the building next door. Jeanette asked them and the younger man said the office wasn't on this block, mumbled a bit and then apologized for being drunk (at 10 a.m., common here, but this should have tipped us off).  The second fellow said he thought the office was about a mile to a mile and a half down the street.)
We got in the car and drove down the street, parked, walked up and down, talked to people.  No one knew.  We stopped and had a cold drink and a cheeseburger at Nardo’s, always a good idea when in The Hole.
Okay, enough of this nonsense.  We went back to the house, got our computers, and set off for French Harbor.  We knew that both Tigo and Claro (cellular providers) had their main offices there.  They also sold the cellular modems that were a little bigger than a flash drive and that would let you connect to the internet using a cellular connection.
In the meantime Jeanette had talked to one of our friends who also uses HughesNet.  Our friend said Carolina Castro didn’t even work for them anymore.  And maybe HughesNet didn’t even have an office anymore.  She said someone by the name of Sammy was now the rep.  She would try to get his phone number so we could call him.
In French Harbor Jeanette went into the Tigo store, got one of the modems (~$30) and bought one month of service for 500 Lempiras ($26.46).  No contract required.  She installed the software sitting there in the office.  It took her about five minutes.  She was instantly connected to the internet.
We walked over to the Claro office.  They had almost the same deal ($30 modem, $26.46 for a month of access).  Their deal was a little better than Tigo’s, because they gave you 7GB of download per month compared to Tigo’s 5GB.
They plugged a modem into my computer and began installing the software.  I don’t know what was going on, because We sat there and sat there, and most of an hour passed.  Finally one of the fellows who was supposedly installing the software came over to me and asked if I had my power supply (charger) with me.  I said no.  He said the computer’s battery was almost discharged, and they couldn’t finish the installation.  I asked if I could finish it when I got home.  He said he thought I could. We left.
We got home, I charged the computer, then entered the installation routine.  I don’t know what they were doing in the store, because I did the installation start to finish in ten minutes.  The window said the software installed correctly.
It didn’t work.  It would not connect to the internet.  I uninstalled the software and re-installed it.  Same result.  No connecto.  I had some rum and Coke.
Jeanette came along a little later and said there was good news.  Sammy had called.  I asked how he even knew our number.  No idea.  Sammy said he would look into what had happened – why our HughesNet service had been suspended and what needed to be done.  Okay, fine.  At that point nothing was going to cheer me up.  Talk’s cheap.  More rum and Coke.

Wednesday, 12 October 

Okay, back to French Harbor for the third straight day.  I went into the Claro store and told them what had happened.  I showed them that it wouldn’t connect.  One of them knew what the problem was right away.  Claro is a big company, providing service to both Central and South America.  There are two different Claro operations: Claro and Claro Honduras.  The only option showing on my connection screen was Claro.  One of the fellows changed a few parameters, so that my connection screen now showed Claro Honduras.
Success!  Finally connected.
When we got back to the house I fired up the HughesNet modem.  All five lights lit.  I started my computer and pulled up a browser.  Sure enough, HughesNet was now working as well.
All is well with the world once again.


  1. After what you two went through, I can understand folks there being drunk at 10 a.m. Come to think of it, I'm craving a rum and Coke right now. The power of suggestion. Thanks, Don, for that.

  2. Jeanette, if you move to Poplar Bluff, you can have the real third world feel of internet. We are luck get 1GB and it costs $34.99 a month. The city has a monopoly. lolo Glad you finally got connected though!! Love your photos.

  3. love this post!! I keep trying to post here and it won't let me. Stop censoring me!! -Cat

  4. Cat - I am not censoring you! I don't know why you are having difficulty...sometimes blogspot has a mind of its own.

  5. Barb - wow! I would have expected better options in Poplar Bluff. Perhaps you could tell them that even Honduras has better plans!