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Zimbabwe's internet grinds to a halt

Intelsat cuts bandwidth over unpaid bill

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Zimbabwe's net infrastructure has all but ground to a halt after Intelsat cut the country's bandwidth over an unpaid $700,000 bill, Reuters reports.

A spokesman for TelOne, which owns the country's principal satellite internet link, told the news agency: "The link is slow because they reduced the megabits on our satellite link until the payment is made. We have approached the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for foreign currency and they are working on that, but meanwhile there would be delays in browsing because of the partial cut-off."

A representative of one private ISP which relies on TelOne's satellite link, said: "It is a nightmare because of the congestion and we are getting calls from desperate clients, some of them who can't even access the internet."

A statement on the Zimbabwe Internet Service Providers Association's (ZISPA) website confirms the connection has been cut, provoking almost total collapse of the country's internet. It explains:

Bandwidth Problems Affecting ISPs (breaking news)

Monday 4 Sep 2006: Since the end of last month TelOne has been experiencing "challenges" with regards to bandwidth provision. This in particular relates to their Intelsat Satellite Link which is a 17 Mbps outbound carrier (and their largest outbound link). Whilst the link is up, no traffic is being passed. Some traffic is being routed via their South African link but they accept that this is by no means an acceptable resolution as it is limited. TelOne assure ZISPA that they are working on this issue at their highest level and hope to have it resolved by the end of this week (ie Friday 8 Sep 2006).

Latest update (15 Sep 2006): TelOne advises that the reason for the satellite link failure is that Intelsat disconnected them in the last week of August due to non-payment of US$700,000.00 and will not reconnect them until this amount is paid. They say that the Reserve Bank has been advised and money has been requested for 2 weeks now - but no joy. ZISPA is therefore lobbying the Reserve Bank in the hope that the forex can be urgently provided. In the meantime, all Internet users in Zimbabwe will experience ongoing difficulties with browsing the Web - access speeds will be reduced and some sites may not be reachable.

The TelOne spokesman added that the company "had asked the government for permission to charge big firms in foreign currency to avoid being cut off in the future". He noted that the telco had "ventured into farming by contracting tobacco and cotton farmers to produce crops for export, in a bid to generate foreign currency", and was expecting a $12m cash injection from the "recent tobacco selling season". ®

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