Víctor Hoces points to the fibre optic installations in the centre of the village. / migue fernández

Mountain village emerges from its internet black hole

Residents in Benaoján, in the Serranía de Ronda, have gone from having barely any connection to high-speed fibre optic in almost every home

SUR RONDA.

"How am I? Look at my face,” said Víctor Hoces, pointing at his smile. A year ago his expression was very different, and so was the mood where he works on the first floor of the town hall in Benaoján, where people who needed to do something online would come in the hope that the internet was working. Now, that has all changed. Fibre optic internet has arrived in this small village in the Serranía de Ronda.

“At last we are first-class citizens, like people who live in towns,” said this administrative assistant whose connection at home has also increased from a 10-Mbps ADSL to 1 GB. “It affects you in so many ways. Watching a film on a digital platform, shopping online, carrying out transactions... I’m very happy now!” he added.

Like Hoces, other residents are also out of the internet “black hole” that Benaoján used to be, when 97.9% of homes had no fast connection. One year later, only 1.35% are in that situation.

Just over 12 months ago, a study showed that 944 homes in the village lacked a strong internet connection. Now there are, officially, only 13 without it, although local people believe the figure is more since 13 applies only to the village nucleus and fibre has not yet arrived at nearby Estación de Benaoján and other outlying areas.

In any case, the progress has revolutionised the lives of most local residents. “Before, if my nephew wanted to play a game online we had to disconnect every other device in the house. Now we have three computers and four mobile phones connected at the same time and it’s fine,” said young biologist Juan González, who has just finished his master’s degree in Biomedical Research and is looking for work.

“Having internet access is essential for the present and future of the village. Before, something as simple as joining an online class meant I had to go to Ronda, because I couldn’t even connect here. The change has been radical,” he explained.

From a 600 to a Mercedes

“We used to be in a Seat 600 car and now we have a Mercedes,” joked José María Amaya from behind the bar at El Tajillo. He has run the business for 32 years and has finally been able to install a credit card machine. “It’s fantastic. Customers are using it a lot, here, and for our home delivery service,” Amaya said.

Everyone is noticing the difference. “Before, uploading a document showing plans with text and images would take ages and the connection would often fail in the process. Now, in one click it is all done and that makes our work more effective,” said David Gómez who also works at the town hall. Now, they are also paying less for a better service. “It’s incredible,” one of the men sitting in the square in the midday sun enthused. “The internet is so fast - you scarcely have time to blink before it is ready to go!”