Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ryan Pyle Blog: Oh, The Freedom

I love living in China. No matter how bitter I get about the difficulties of working there, never forget that I love working there.

As much as I love it there, I need to get out from time to time and my favorite destination is Hong Kong. Good old HK will always have a special place in my heart. It was my first stop in Asia, it was my home for about 18 months, I made some incredible friends and spent a few too many nights drinking vodka red bulls in Lan Kwai Fung.

My friends in Hong Kong are family, and while the rest of my family is virtually inaccessible for the holidays due to extreme distance, a few beers and some good chat is always much needed after an intense few months of work.

Well today I just got down to HK and rucked up to my usually place where I crash. Even before un-packing I file up the wireless internet access and breath a deep sigh of relief, oh what a feeling.

It takes a trip to Hong Kong to remind myself just how slow and bogged down the internet in China really is. FTP'ing images is a nightmare, sites are blocked, blogs are censored, streaming video crawls and YouTube looks like a "still picture" portal.

A friend of mine from the US was in Shanghai with me earlier this year and he is a computer engineer, he was quick to open up my computer, boot the MSDOS and find out exactly how slow the internet in China really his. To his, and my, surprise it was clicking along at about 15% the speed that most residential broadband users get in the US.

Now, before we jump to conclusions - it's not all just censorship. It's true that emails and FTP's that go from China to Europe and North America have to pass through a censor that screens for key words (Thank you Cisco), most of the problems with speed actually occur at a more local level.

The problem lies with China Telecom, the state run monopoly fixed line provider. The big telecom company sells off a certain fixed number of broadband connections to local distributors who in turn sell this service to the end customer (me). But the local branches splice and often run as many as ten connections on one of the fixed lines on the main server. The final product is painful.

Just in the last year or two China Telecom has begun pumping broadband cables directly in to residential and commercial buildings and things have been getting better - but it's just not fast enough.

So I sit in HK surfing away. I filed about 400 images with my agency and uploaded a ton of stuff to my own site, why, because I can do it one hour in HK - a task that would take as much as three hours in Shanghai, maybe more.

Human Rights Watch, BBC, US State Department, my own blog - here i come. Let the information flow freely.

Ryan Pyle
Skype: ryanpyle

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This is Ryan Pyle. I appreciate you adding a comment to my blog and I hope that this space has offered you something useful and interesting. I look forward to staying in touch and I'm glad you took the time to comment.

Ryan Pyle