The hiring should be the same. The contract should be awarded in October, but it should actually turn over in April. Therefore, Raytheon will be doing the hiring for the summer and winter positions coming up. After that, it should be the new contractor.
Internet is faster during the winter than the summer. During the winter, you also get wireless in your room (for most people). The speeds are pretty comparable to what you would see in the states. Not super fast, but fast enough to make it worth your time. The biggest thing is the websites that are blocked because of the filter. The filter is there to make sure that we are not surfing porn on company bandwidth. However, it has also blocked The Onion, Urban Dictionary, parts of Craigslist, and bigdeadplace (for less than a day). Most of those sites get unblocked eventually, but there are definitely enough blocked sites to make you feel like you are closer to China than you are the States sometimes.
Food this winter has been better than any other season that I have been down here. They NSF gave additional funding to bring down better quality food. So far, it has been a big improvement. That being said, it is still cafeteria-type eating. It ain't fancy. Overall, the food is good enough and not much better.
You can ship groceries down, but not booze. You are, however, allowed 150 lbs. of luggage when you fly from Christchurch to McMurdo and a lot of people use their extra weight to bring in as much as they can from Christchurch. This has to be done because they no longer sell booze in the store...just beer, wine and Bailies.
Most people really like Palmer, but it is tougher to get your foot in the door there.