Internet Experiment

I’ve been whining quite a bit lately. First it was about not being able to find someone to work with me at my company. Then it was about the Great Firewall of China picking on me.

I’ve now found Micah to fill the laowai void at my company, but my internet access remains in a deplorable state. Thus the whining continues.

I was recently researching the problem, and I read what Wang Jianshuo had to say about it. (His site is a great reference for all matters Shanghai.) He’s been having problems too, and he also uses ADSL. A Chinese friend in the IT business informed me that her friends have been having similar issues lately (especially with Google), but that those using cable broadband service (有线通) weren’t having the same issues.

Since the internet access problem is mostly specific to Shanghai, I theorized that China is trying out its newest internet filtering technology in Shanghai, with ADSL service in particular as the guinea pig. My troubles are a side effect of what Wang Jianshuo calls “bugs in the great firewall,” which exist because of the newness of the technology. Surely any filters applied to ADSL will also be applied to cable broadband, but maybe only after this initial “tweaking phase” is completed. And who knows when that will be.

So I took a gamble. I signed up for cable service, paying 340 rmb (over $40 US) for installation, the cable modem, and a month of service. The service itself is slightly cheaper (120 rmb per month instead of China Telecom ADSL’s 140 rmb per month), and the speed is about the same. But my website might be once again freely accessible. If not, I wasted 220 rmb for pretty much the same service I was getting.

The installation was finished this afternoon. Once connected, I tried to access my site via FTP. No go. I went to my blog page. My site loaded slowly, pretty much the same as before. Experiment over.

One difference, though, is that Metafilter seems to load better than before. That’s a plus. Also, sites seem to be timing out less often, and just loading slowly instead.

Anyway, I’m through with this crap. I’m changing hosts again. If my site is down for a little while, or the comments don’t work or something like that, you know why. Hopefully soon I’ll be back online proper, blogging about things less boring and negative.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Shafa! haha…
    Waiting for your story in yinchuan…

  2. Whining fher! You have a friend named Wang?

  3. I just moved to Dreamhost, who have a great deal for storage and bandwidth and are apparently very reliable. You might want to check them out.

  4. I’ve just signed up for ADSL here in Nanjing. The guy came yesterday and couldn’t get it working. He seemed to have no idea what he was doing (according to my girlfriend, cause I wasn’t here). He said it could be the modem, could be our wiring, or could be that the modem won’t work with English WinXP. Either way, he didn’t know heads from tails.

    John or any other China ADSL users: did you have this problem — are you even using English XP? Do any techies out there think that the China Telecom software is programmed to look for English filenames as well as Chinese filenames (dll’s specifically)?

    Next time he comes I’m going to make sure to be home and pretty much tell him to leave the modem with me and let me take care of it. Service personnel in China are if not short of incompetent, certainly a step down from their worst American counterpart! (I’ve been here for a year and a half, that qualifies me to make these kinds of generalizations!).

    Thanks in advance for any help coming!

  5. I’m having some of the same issues in Beijing. My roommate has ADSL and I just got cable (the installation was free) to see if it was any better. Both are frustratingly slow, especially during peak periods where the cable is actually slower than the ADSL despite being advertised as twice as fast.

    I’ve also had numerous problems with certain sites such as google and gmail. One thing I determined is that at least in Beijing, the DNS servers are totally overloaded – and are probably performing some sort of firewall function as well. I downloaded a free DNS caching program called Treewalk and the improvement was very noticeable.

  6. About accessing gmail from China, please try

  7. Get someone to set up a machine in the states that you can have SSH access to, and that also has a remote proxy running on it. Then use something like PuTTy to create an SSH tunnel around the firewall by forwarding a port on your local machine to the port on the remote machine that runs the proxy. Then configure the proxy settings on your browser to point to the newly forwarded port on your localhost, and that way you can bypass the Great Firewall entirely.

    It works a treat.

  8. Metafilter owns.

  9. ..and all this time I thought China had something against Macs!! oh well I guess it’s not my computer!

    Yahoo is moving at a snail’s pace, google (used to be the fastest loading page there was out there) loads as quickly as Ents talk, and the net connection just sucks all around! (using ChinaNet myself)

    Plus… for some random reason, an anti-spam company has decided that my ISP’s IP is a spamming agent so all my SMTP mail has been blocked for some awkward reason! :S

    And my roomate can’t access hotmail to which the ISP told him that he “should have changed to yahoo! a long time ago anyway. The Company is now boycotting them.” Not that I don’t agree with boycotting MSN Hotmail, but it’s my choice, not my ISP!!!!

  10. Aww man, I feel bad to hear that you’re switching hosts so soon. Especially b/c I was the one that recommended surpass to you in the first place … Whoops.
    I’m not 100% sure about this either, but I’ll mention it b/c I know what a bitch changing services can be..

    Surpass hosting is made up of a bunch of different servers as you know. It may well be, that you just got put on a really crappy one or something- Check my site and others that are hosted on different Surpass servers to see if we’re all slow.

    If it’s just your server, it’d prob be alot easier to just ask them to move your account and data to another server or something. It would certainly be alot easier.

    But if you do decide to make the switch, I’ve heard good things about that Dreamhost service that brendan mentioned above. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help though – Third (or however many this is) time’s a charm!

  11. Dear John,

    Hope you are well. I read your piece about ADSL and cable broadband service. You mentioned that the speed or quality is the same. Well, I am using Skype to call the US and from the US end, the phone quality is not ideal. Would changing to cable broadband significantly enhance the quality of the call. Thanks, David

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