Large-scale Internet connection problems in the African country of Zimbabwe have continued for about a month because of a late payment to a satellite-based telecom provider.
Zimbabwe’s ISPs (Internet service providers) still have only about 10 percent of usual bandwidth available to them after the government-owned TelOne telecommunications provider fell US$700,000 behind on its bill to Intelsat, according to the Zimbabwe Internet Service Providers’ Association (ZISPA).
“Mail traffic is delayed and outbound Internet traffic is appallingly slow, and many sites unreachable,” ZISPA Chairman Nikki Lear said in an e-mail Monday. Intelsat had been providing a 17M bps (bits per second) outbound connection from Zimbabwe, ZISPA said.
Intelsat, in Pembroke, Bermuda, has not cut off total Internet access to its Zimbabwe customers, said Dianne VanBeber, a spokeswoman for the company. “We’re working closely with the customer to see what we can work out,” she said.
Intelsat does not comment on the details of customer negotiations, VanBeber said. She declined to say how long the Zimbabwe bill was past due.
The company’s decision to cut back bandwidth was a “last resort,” VanBeber said. “Because we do business all around the world … we have pretty flexible [payment] terms,” she added.
TelOne and the Zimbabwe embassy in Washington, D.C., did not return messages seeking comment on the unpaid bill.
ZISPA had hoped the problem could be cleared up by Sept. 8, the group said on its Web site. The group has been lobbying the government-run Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to resolve the problem with Intelsat, ZISPA said.
In an unrelated development, Intelsat announced Friday that a satellite providing telecommunications services to 27 customers across Africa had experienced a “sudden and unexpected anomaly.” As of late Monday, nearly all of the affected customers had been provided replacement capacity on other Intelsat satellites, VanBeber said.
It could take several months to determine the cause of the problem, she said. The satellite, launched in 1997, was manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
-Grant Gross, IDG News Service (Washington Bureau)
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