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The slow China Internet costs us 3 working weeks per year

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.

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  1. i suspect government filtration is increasing ..

    was in korea last week, my hotel room had 9Mbs up and down!

    it is probably time to stop sucking up to china, and recognize that it has nothing to add to the world that the world actually needs.

  2. I’ve met few chinese/international companies which have set up a small office here in Taipei for the very same reason. Not a bad idea after all, with direct flight and in-town airport, Taipei is only 2h far from Shanghai, door to door.

  3. Just came back to Shanghai after years of studying and working overseas, indeed I had a lot of trouble because of the slow and restricted internet… but I didn’t realize this can actually kill me three weeks a year… crazy. Similarly I felt the advantages still outweigh this issue, but I really hope internet in china can become better one day.

  4. Gosh, I can’t agree anymore, I can’t tell how many night I have stopped working from home on company foreign server because of the horrible internet speed, just impossible! The VPN I used to used has broken down (not hard to guess why), could you advise me via email which stable & faster VPN would you recommend. Thanks

  5. I have observed the same lately. Internet is getting slower and slower, in particular non-Chinese websites. Oftentimes it totally stops and I can only reset the router/modem. They are doing some sneeky filtering, because it’s not the whole internet connection that is dead (QQ still works, probably because the excellent fallback mechanisms that are builtin).

  6. hi,

    it is very true that internet is so slow in china, mainly due to the china firewall filtering the connection…

  7. Would be interesting to see the numbers of old time China hands now leaving. A trickle is turning into a flood. I am laving as well after 15 years due to pollution, and slow internet speeds.