Magic and Miracles. SKYnet, New Friend in the Casita

Three plus years ago I moved into the Teotitlan del Valle casita when it was ready for occupancy after living with my host family. The question that nagged at me then and before was how would I get reliable Internet connection to write, publish photos, work and maintain a lifeline to family and friends in the U.S.A.

Honestly, it’s been a struggle. This is how we learn patiencia here in Mexico. It’s a great teacher.

Small but mighty "dish" pointing south from the edge of the rooftop terrace

Small but mighty “dish” pointing south from the edge of the rooftop terrace

The casita and environs are beautiful. Tranquil. I live out in the campo amid corn and agave fields. The village is slowly moving out this way. Across the dirt road, donkeys bray. In the corrals on adjacent plots of land, neighbors keep pigs and goats. They talk, screech, squeal, bump against the patchwork wood structure, jiggle the aluminum roof.

View from the campo with Teotitlan del Valle village in distance

View from the campo with Teotitlan del Valle village in distance

Building projects encroaching on the farmland are announced by the sound of hammers, drills and heavy earth-moving equipment.

In the cool of early morning, campesinos pick alfalfa. Brahmin cattle pull hand-hewn wood plows to prepare the fields for planting. The rainy season has started. Ojala.

There is no land line that comes this far out.  Telmex service is non-existent in these parts.  You need a landline to have traditional Internet service. Fiber optics? Hardly.

I’m lucky to have electricity and many of the comforts we take for granted like electrical outlets, lights, a washing machine (no dryer but the sun), running water that sometimes runs out when the water tank drains to empty, usually functioning flush toilets, a gas stove, refrigerator, ceiling fans.

Screen shot. Five bar connection, first draft

Screen shot. Five bar connection, first draft

Some years ago, to solve the Internet access problem, I got a ZTE wide band device that connects to my computer USB port to pick up a radio signal through the Telcel cell tower. Most of the time, it took 30 minutes to download one or two small file jpg photos when it worked. Cost: exorbitant. Reliability: Questionable.

Last year, I brought my jailbroken iPhone 4s to Oaxaca and converted it to a local smart phone to get and receive emails. To write blogs, take care of life and upload photos I went to the city or to local restaurants with decent wifi service.

Now, no more. Welcome my new friend to the casita: SKYnet. This is a satellite telecommunications that provides internet service. No TV or cable. Only Internet. The system was installed this last Thursday night.  I’ve had uninterrupted connection even through two giant rain-thunder-lightening-wind storms. I’ve had a Skype call with my son (no pixellated image). And, it’s FAST.

The "dish really looks like a small square plate.

The “dish really looks like a small square plate. Whole deal: 24” high.

Installation cost: 2,800 pesos (about $150USD at the current exchange rate) for the fast service level. Monthly fee is 580 pesos or about $32 USD. For rural villages without access to communication, this is a blessing.

I’m thinking you might hear from me more, from here on.

Years ago, when I worked with the graduate master’s and doctoral engineering programs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Dr. Hermann Helgert, a electrical engineer and telecomm expert predicted that it would only be a matter of time before rural parts of the world would have interconnectivity.

If you go to the SKYnet Facebook page, you’ll see all the small, remote mountainous Oaxaca villages that have access now, too. Ojala!

People say that Internet access is a great social and economic leveler and will help improve literacy and education. What do you think?


18 responses to “Magic and Miracles. SKYnet, New Friend in the Casita

  1. Congratulations, Norma. Welcome to the ease of having Internet at home, at your own desk or dining table or lap. In terms of the Internet being the great leveler, I just returned from Cuba where in Havana, just in the last year, the government has set up “wi-fi zones” all around the city. In these zones you find hundreds of people, mostly youngish, sitting on ledges, benches, steps, or sidewalk curbs and staring fixedly into their phones, tablets, and laptops as they Skype with distant relatives in the States or elsewhere, check email, do research, or just browse. The zones are very quiet–everyone is busy being connected to the world. So much change going on there too–let’s hope the connectivity brings (mostly) positive results.

    • I can just see those corners, Winn, as you describe them. Yes, the Internet is a great social leveler, and acces into heretofore remote areas are sure to bring social, cultural and political changes — some for the good or not. Yet, I believe open communication is a path for healing the world’s differences, whether in Cuba or Tlahuitoltepec, Oaxaca. It is sure to bring us closer together. Thanks for the dialog. And see you soon.

  2. Norma – Congratulations on your success – you will be up all night exploring what you have missed for 3 years.

    Do you mind if I send you installments for my February 2017 trip?

    Thanks, Susanne

  3. Congratulations Norma,

    Wonderful that you have the peace and tranquility that you do at your lovely casita, and now the luxury of Internet.

    Jo Ann and Tom

  4. Congratulations! It’s wonderful and a blessing to have connectivity!

  5. I can’t help being a geek, but “Skynet” also has this connotation:

    • Well, Hugh, I tried to find the ownership source for this SKYnet Mexico group and couldn’t get beyond Loral and HughesNet. It’s a secret weapon, perhaps. I read a lot about SKYnet being the name of the British weaponry satellite system. As we say here, quien sabe? Who knows? Just as long as it doesn’t terminate my connection, I’ll be satisfied. If you know who operates SKYnet, please tell me, unless it’s a government secret. Good to hear from you.

  6. Congratulations, Norma!
    I could not exist without internet (and Cable TV!!). Don’t know how you did it for 3 years! Waiting for cafe times wouldn’t cut it for me. However, I do remember a certain point on a rock wall in Assisi, Italy, which gave me free internet about 6:30 am every day.
    Thinking of you in your beautiful casita,
    PS Knee replacement on July 11th for me – hope I fare as well as you did!

    • Oh, good for you, Suzanne. You are doing the knee job. Yay. You’ll push through it and be way better because of it. Just get off those damn pain killers as fast as you can! Besos grandes, Norma

  7. this is just great!

  8. This is very good news…and for others, too. Saving the information…perhaps we might be able to get connected at the finca!
    Happy for you, Norma…you have great perseverence & ingenuity.

  9. So glad to hear the happy ending! You truly are a detective.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *