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Thursday, September 16, 1999 Published at 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK


World: Africa

Kenya Net shutdown

Kenyans could surf the Net only via foreign service providers

The two-day shutdown of Kenya's leading local Net connection has drawn complaints about the monopoly operated by the state communications company.

The crash, which took place on Sunday, affected all Kenyan Internet service providers (ISPs), which are obliged to use the Jambonet high-speed data link.

Jambonet is operated by the state-owned telecommunications utility Telkom Kenya.

About half of Kenya's estimated 30,000 Internet users are believed to have been prevented from browsing the Net or accessing e-mail for more than two days.

Problems continue

The link had been repaired by Tuesday evening, but reports of erratic service continued on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Kenyan independent newspaper the Daily Nation reported that Jambonet's services had been "unstable" for two weeks before the crash.

Telkom Kenya has apologised to customers for the interruption. Spokeswoman Alice Koech said on Wednesday that technicians were trying to pin down the problem in Jambonet's station at Longonot, about 100km (60 miles) north of Nairobi, which connects to a node in Canada.

Kenyans who subscribe to foreign-based ISPs were still able to access the Net through independent connections.

AfricaOnline, the ISP with the biggest share of the Kenyan market, continued to connect its customers to servers overseas.

Monopoly complaints

Jambonet's shut-down drew complaints about Kenya's telecommunications laws which oblige local ISPs to go through the single server operated by a state-run company.

"They want to control everything," said Tejpal Bedi, chief executive of the Nairobi-based ISP Inter-Connect.

The Association of Telecommunications Service Providers of Kenya is lobbying to have the law changed in a way that would allow them to operate their own satellite dishes to connect to the Web.

The Daily Nation says a change in the law is vital, given the role which Internet services are expected to play in the the country's development in the next millennium.



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