So finally, we are connected to the world wide web: Priviet Mir! During in my stay in Berlin I already discovered that apparently simple matters always have odd hooks and bolts attached to them. These oddities are so evident at home that there’s not a second lost in worrying about them. In Berlin, you need a bank account in order to get an Internet connection, but for a bank account you need to register at the local municipality, both requiring an advanced level of German in order to wrestle yourself through the bureaucracy. And in the US you will be able to do practically anything with a line of credit, id est a credit card, thanks (?) to the highly developed banking system. Well, given that in Russia there was no such thing for a long time and the current system has its limitations, I was amused to find however that cash does the talking here, and gets you everything.
A car, satellite television, Internet and … what else. Consumer loans are becoming a hot commodity very fast. 2006 Is the year of car loans, credit lines that are available within thirty minutes, and shopping loans are the driving force behind the growth of Russian private banks. But private banks are highly monolithic with small branch networks, and most foreign corporations depend on foreign banks complying with international banking standards. And because risk is high and consumer banking underdeveloped, cash is the bullet that allows you pay without risk, meaning you buy services prepaid. The system is actually pretty user friendly and it will be interesting to see if there prepaid services will hold once the consumer banking system establishes itself more firmly.
Throughout the city you will find orange colored boots signed ‘all@card’. The only product these boots sell are ‘cards’ of a myriad type, bus tickets, subway, telephone, ‘bilayni’ and ‘malina’ cards and television cards (the latter two types of cards I yet need to figure out, although they are ubiquitously advertised) and yes, also internet cards.
But in all fairness, the system is very user friendly, or at least Russian speaking user friendly, as is the whole of Moscow for that matter, but that aside.
The all@card boots sell several brands of Internet cards, but we started out with the cheapest dial-up card offered by MTU-Intel, a subsidiary of MTS, one of the biggest communication providers in Russia. Paying 180 rubles or about 6 to 7 US dollars, you get 5,000 y.e. (an abbreviation unknown to me. Anyone?), good for probably 15 to 20 hours of online time.
The system lets you access the registration pages of MTU-Intel. First time users register their card here and create their accounts. Be careful to create the correct type of account though, because you can choose between buying plans using your credit card or with a prepaid card, yet the different plans cannot replenish the same account, and they are not inter-exchangeable. Once you register your card, the system will generate a login and password or ‘parole’, which you use to create a new modem connection with. Then you activate the card or activate other cards with your newly created account, and voila, ready to go. The same system works for NTV plus satellite television, which uses digital television boxes by France’s Viacom.