June 26, 2006
A tale of two cables
Read these two articles if you want to know why Africa's internet connections have been so ropey and expensive in the past – and why they are likely to remain so ropey and expensive in the future.
The enemies of the piece – no surprise here – are the continent's own telecoms monopolies.
"20+ parastatial telecommunication bureaucracies [have], through gross levels of corruption and managerial incompetence, wasted the entire 20th century bringing telecommunications in Africa to the dismal state it is in today" - Ronald Alden
Apparently there are now signs of hope that the planned East African Submarine cable System (EASSy), designed to bring cheaper broadband up the entire coast of east Africa, is going to operate under an open access model – giving smaller internet suppliers a chance against the big guys.
Here is a report on this possible advance in Kampala's The Monitor. I love the way it tells the story, then misses the entire point of its own report by blaming Western telecoms companies rather than the cartels operating in its own back yard.
Currently the region's international traffic is routed through transmission infrastructures like space satellites and servers, which are all situated in and owned by the West.
That has meant that companies here have to pay transit charges to Western technological giants who own those facilities, which translates into exorbitant communication costs here.
Of course, the only reason that African web users resort to using foreign satellite connections is because the connections offered by home grown providers are so bad. (Check this comparison of broadband prices offered by one "technology giant" in the West and the state monopoly Ethiopian Telecoms.)
Posted by aheavens at June 26, 2006 1:21 PM