My permanent, retirement home is in Olongapo, Philippines. It’s on the outskirts of the city, not in the downtown area. My wife, Josie, and I moved there in April 2006, and we had our house built in the Santa Rita barangay (a suburb-like subdivision of the city).
Broadband internet wasn’t available to me until after our house was built. Before that, I had to use prepaid dial-up cards to get online at my mother-in-law’s house.
From November 2006 until sometime before the end of 2010, I had DSL provided by Subic Telecommunications (Subictel). The highest broadband connection speed available to me at first was 512 kilobits, which I could barely call broadband. It gradually increased to almost 2 megabits before the company switched hands.
Subictel was bought out by the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) sometime before 2010, but I don’t know when. It was after they bought out the Philippine Telephone Company, a separate company with a similar sounding name.
PLDT was supposed to migrate my service in August 2010, when I signed the paperwork for it. The monthly amount I paid for DSL from Subictel was 2500 pesos. An increase to 3000 pesos was supposed to get me 3 megabits with PLDT. The migration finally took place in December and I did indeed get 3 megabits.
At some point during that period, a representative at PLDT told me I could increase my download speed to 5 megabits at no cost. I couldn’t do it because Josie was in the United States at the time and everything was in her name.
I disconnected the DSL modem from the telephone line before I left the country in July 2013. A sister-in-law’s husband turned everything in after I arrived in Phoenix because I had to get copies of Josie’s identification documents and send them to him. Oh, and a letter from her to them authorizing him to have the DSL and the regular telephone service turned off.
I was always investigating other broadband internet choices in my area before leaving the country in 2013. Smart Communications and Globe Telecommunications offered wireless internet, but their services weren’t any cheaper than PLDT’s DSL, and they weren’t even close to being as reliable.
A sister-in-law had Globe Wi-Fi for a few months, but the signal was weak even when it wasn’t raining. When it was raining, the signal was nonexistent. Considering it rains off and on throughout the year and almost daily during the rainy season, it wasn’t worth the cost.
In 2011 or 2012, she got the same DSL service I had but only at 1 megabit. I could tell because Josie often talked to her on Skype and the video always lagged even when it wasn’t blurry, which was almost every time.
I was told cable internet would be available in 2007 through Colorview CATV. When I left in July 2013, it still wasn’t available in my area. It’s available now because Colorview upgraded the entire area to digital while I was gone. I still wouldn’t use it. We’ve suffered through many cable TV outages over the years, without cable internet even being involved. I don’t trust their services for anything.
Josie and my younger son, Jon, were staying with my older son, Joe, until just before I joined them for my longer than anticipated visit. They moved into an apartment before he and his wife, Diann, transferred overseas (she’s in the Air Force).
Josie had an old mobile phone, which wasn’t a smartphone. I didn’t have or need a mobile phone of my own. She was still working back then, but I wasn’t. The apartment complex provided a Wi-Fi signal, which I used with two laptop computers. That free Wi-Fi signal was usually stronger than what I had in the Philippines.
Josie and I returned to the Philippines after Jon joined the Army and went through his schools, which wasn’t until nearly the end of 2014.
While I was away, the wireless carriers introduced LTE (which stands for “Long-Term Evolution”), a high-speed alternative to 3G wireless. Even PLDT, my telephone and DSL provider, got into the act. Smart Communications (which offered LTE separately) is a wholly owned subsidiary of PLDT, so I’m sure there was shared infrastructure being used.
During brownouts, I tried using the meager 100 MB data plan provided with my mobile phone service at no extra charge. It was a 3G connection and terribly slow. LTE might have been available in 99 percent of the Philippines, but my area wasn’t part of it. That’ was probably because there was only one cell tower we could connect to and it wasn’t even close to being “line of sight”.
I didn’t understand how important Wi-Fi would be there until I started using it. One of my sisters-in-law had my DSL installed again a couple of weeks before I returned. Instead of a regular DSL modem, they provided a Wi-Fi DSL router (which had to be replaced once).
Using data services through mobile carriers can be expensive. Using a Wi-Fi connection supplied from a standard broadband internet connection like cable or DSL costs nothing extra. The only time I had to use the mobile phone data was when we had brownouts. I rarely used my mobile phone as an actual phone, to call or text other people.
I paid less for 5 megabits (which they silently upgraded to 8 megabits in February 2016) than I previously paid for a 3-megabit connection.
Josie lived with Joe and Diann in Florida for about eight months and now we’re living with Jon and his wife, Cathy, in Hawaii. Soon, we’ll be living with Joe and Diann again at an Air Force base in Maryland. Cathy’s pregnancy, childbirth and the COVID-19 pandemic has kept up in Hawaii far longer than anticipated.
Regardless of which son we’re living with, our internet is a decent Wi-Fi signal. Until a few days ago, Joe and Diann had cable internet. I don’t know what they’ll have in Maryland. Jon has cable internet here.
At this point, we don’t know when that will be. DSL is no longer available in Olongapo. When we return, we’ll have fiber internet. I plan to get a 50-megabit connection for less than I previously paid for 8 with DSL, which is under 2500 pesos (or under $50 United States dollars).
I like having choices but unless someone competes with something else, I’ll be stuck with PLDT. The Starlink satellite service seems interesting.