Over the past days the Internet speed in Shanghai has been horrible again. At UnitedStyles rendering something that should take 30 seconds in a normal situation took up to 20 minutes yesterday, meaning that it is impossible to work. When I was in Europe a few days ago talking to Joop Dorresteijn (who was in Shanghai) I advised him at a certain point to just send the staff home. You can’t work at an Internet company without a decent Internet connection to the world outside the Great Firewall.
Over the years I had my share of negative experiences, but it seems to be getting worse. Connections time out and without a private VPN it’s almost impossible to jump out of the biggest LAN (local area network) in the world.
Tonight I was particularly frustrated when I was trying to test a website hosted on Amazon, and each time I was trying to check something the connection timed out. I got so upset that I even tweeted about it. Fellow entrepreneur Alex Duncan then replied with a blog post that he had written out of similar frustration 2 months ago.
In this post he calculated that at the US multinational he used to work for, the staff spent an average of 30-45 minutes extra per day because of the slow Internet. That means a full 3 weeks of lost productivity (plus added stress and frustration) per year! Can you imagine the macro impact of this in a country like China? Of course only a relatively small number of people regularly uses the foreign Internet, but still the total effect must be huge.
Alex mentioned that he might eventually consider to leave China because of this. Naturally I have pondered about that as well, but for me the advantages of China generally (still) outweigh the disadvantages of the terrible Internet. But at times I am so frustrated that I can’t wait until my next trip outside the Great Firewall.