OPINION : Not all is glossy with the coming of the undersea cables

It is now months since the first two submarine fiber optic cables landed at Mombasa and Dar es Salaam ports. This was arguably the most covered ICT related news in most East African media in a very long time. It was treated with joy considering the much touted Utopianism that we had been told of for ages.

It is now months since the first two submarine fiber optic cables landed at Mombasa and Dar es Salaam ports. This was arguably the most covered ICT related news in most East African media in a very long time.

It was treated with joy considering the much touted Utopianism that we had been told of for ages.

However the glossy story quickly turned sour when the two weeks that Rwanda was supposed to wait before being connected to the cable turned into months.

Though the project is up and running, in neighboring Uganda it turned out to be another corruption meat ball resulting in the delay of the second phase.

Kenya, service providers are accusing each other of vandalism as well.

And what else do the ISPs have to say to us now? After enduring years of very expensive and slow Internet connections via satellite we are now being told that the prices cannot come down as yet.

Instead the ‘good’ ISPs are all talking about doubling their capacity but maintaining the same price.

They (ISPs) argue that they need to recoup their investments and thus cannot offer low prices now. One regional business paper even reported that it could take a whole three years before the prices start coming down.

Closer to the truth is the fact that the ISPs are simply not ready to lose the millions they have been minting for ages by offering slow connections. Now they are earning the same yet incurring very little.

The only possible outcome of this could be the joy that existing users will have accessing more data speeds. However it is likely to impede the increase of Internet users since the exorbitant prices still exist.

More so, it is not true that all the existing users are in dire need of faster speeds and more data. But it is undoubtedly true that lower prices will attract almost all computer owners to try a go at what the internet has to offer in the first place.

That could certainly take us back to the same situation that Celtel (Zain) found itself in when, as the pioneer mobile phone service in Uganda it charged obscene prices based on the same empty arguments only to be swept aside by the emergence of more rational players like MTN.

MTN’s operations in Uganda was then unmasked when Uganda Telecom came on board without any extra fees. MTN Uganda had spent ages robbing unsuspecting subscribers with the so called ‘service fee.’

Therefore I think it is better for these ISPs to consider bringing down the prices so that they attract more computer owners and corporate clients than foolishly hanging onto the few they have at the moment by engaging in pointless mind games that we have heard of before.

The internet should not be looked at a good for a select few if we are to benefit from the ICT age. I only hope that RURA is watching this space closely!

ssenyonga@gmail.com

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