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African ISPs Being Fleeced by the West 436

dipfan writes "African ISPs are forced to pay the full cost of their connections to western telcos and ISPs, rather than sharing the costs, as in the case of voice telephony: quote - "America Online doesn't spend one single cent in sending emails to Africa." The total cost of any email sent or received by an African internet user is borne entirely by the African ISPs, totaling $500m a year for the continent, according to this disturbing article by the BBC."
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African ISPs Being Fleeced by the West

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  • by BlueUnderwear ( 73957 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:47AM (#3349391)
    ... with all the spam that we get from there.
    • Yes - but who can read a Chinese spam e-mail? :o)
    • A funny remark. May I offer a not funny response ?
      They should do the same thing with China...
      They probably do. They certainly did so in the past, and they are doing it to about every country in the world, except Canada and maybe Mexico.

      The operative word is "Tier 1". Let me explain a bit:

      typically an ISP has three types of connections: "Customers" pay him to route their traffic, "Peers" are other ISPs who exchange traffic with him for their respective customers at no cost, and "upstream providers" are ISPs he pays to route all traffic from his customers he can't route via Peers.

      A Tier 1 ISP, now, has zero upstream connections. He doesn't need to.

      To meet this definition, a Tier 1 ISP has peering conections to every other Tier1 ISP. There are only very few ISPs that meet this criteria. All of them are US ISPs (though some of these - like UUNET - are globally active nowadays). Life is good for a Tier 1 ISP, since he only pays for his backbone (as everybody else does), and doesn't pay for traffic at all. And they have no incentive to let anyone else into the club - since they can earn more by forcing others to pay them for routing their traffic. Therefore it is practically impossible for an ISP to become Tier 1 ISP, even if he sits in the US, because the big guys simply won't peer with him. (For a more complex - albeit 3 years old - treatise, try this article [networkmagazine.com] ). More so, this applies to Non-US ISPs. Not only is there less incentive for the existing Tier1 ISPs to peer with them coompared to US ISPs (because US customers generally demand less access to foreign sites) but also the cost of shared cost peering is much higher, since the lines are longer - often across an ocean - and therefore more expensive.

      As a result of this there is - AFAIK - not a single Non-US Tier 1 ISP. We all pay for upstream bandwidth - you don't.

      Now look at this from a country based view: everyone pays for connection to the US, and for all traffic routed there, while US companies essentially get international connectivity for free. As a result of this Internet connectivity is much less expensive in the US then in any other part of the world.

      This is even though the US today already is a minority on the Internet, and if not, certainly will be very soon. It is this way, because that Tier 1 Old Boys Network got started in the US, and these guys won't let anybody else in.

      So the African Countries' complaint is correct, as should be the complaint of any state outside of North America. And at some point in the future, expect to see drastic political action to rectify this.

      My personal suspicion is that this will start in China, but the bets are still open.

  • Its not only Africa (Score:4, Informative)

    by dregs ( 24578 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:49AM (#3349396)
    This also happens with Traffic to OZ, and I'd guess most other countries.

    The bottom line, is most English content providers are in the US (like slashdot), and if you want to see it you'd better pay.

    I'd guess that China and other non english countries would have the best change at getting costs equalised, as they don't need the US site to the same extent.
    • by thogard ( 43403 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @10:27AM (#3349971) Homepage
      Right now you can buy a 64k isdn link to tel$tra at AU$.20/megabyte. Odd thing is thats the same cost as having someone (with a decent call plan) call OZ and transfer the data. Data rates in Oz have dropped a bit over the last 3 years but are still very high. In a well connected area in the US, data is about US$2/gigbyte including the local loop (assume lots about the data flow/capcity and that stuff).

      The solution to part of the problems was the Southern cross cable which was built by some Kiwi's that had the same problem Afirca has. Now that tyco (didn't they used to make toy trians or was that someone else?) is about to run a much bigger cable combined with a few dot bombs not making good on their long term data commnitments means you can get a nice 45mb link to the US for about US$33,000/mo. Connect that to a peering point and you should be able to get 20 E1's for about $5k each unlimited data(from the Aussie point of view, 95% full from the US POV)

      With some of the new 100% optical repeaters, there will be the option to run undersea cables that don't need heaps of electronics hiding deep in the ocean. Lucent (or AT&T or TPC or whatever) just did a major link with repeaters every 100km. I think they were doing 5000km total span but that won't go from Hawaii to Fiji and their gear isn't the underwater type. One of the problems in Africa is that people dig up the cable to take the wire out (wire is used to provide power just like the undersea cables). Africa and Australia both have the problem of critters that seem to have a taste for cable.
  • by Tony Shepps ( 333 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:50AM (#3349400) Homepage
    I have a T1 for my business. I have to pay 100% of the bill for it. Sometimes my clients and I get email from AOL users. AOL doesn't pay for one cent of my T1, yet they expect to send me messages without worrying about the cost! This is annoying. Please, can someone tell me how I can get others to pay for my T1? Thanks.
    • Stop making sense. This is Slashdot, not the real world. Everything net related should be subsidized or provided for free.
    • "I have a T1 for my business. I have to pay 100% of the bill for it. Sometimes my clients and I get email from AOL users. AOL doesn't pay for one cent of my T1, yet they expect to send me messages without worrying about the cost!"

      Hey smart guy, it works both ways. Do you have to pay the recipient's ISP bill when *you* send *them* an email?
    • No kidding. There is a damn good reason that "The Western World" Isn't paying for their net usage... they don't have the online population that we have. We have a real market. Plus, look at it this way: They pay for their bandwidth, we pay for ours... isn't that fair? It's not? But why? Oh yeah, because we are a 'developed' country. We have struggled through tyrrany, war and poverty and have come out on top. Our prize: we are expected to spoon feed the rest of the world until they can 1) bleed us dry or 2) kill us. Sound familiar?
    • by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:31AM (#3349596) Homepage
      This is essentially the difference between getting a leased line from a Telco/ISP and peering. In the first case you can expect to pay for all the bandwidth in both directions, because essentially all the traffic on the line is yours. You are going to be making requests (I want to read Slashdot), people responding to your requests (here's your Slashdot Page) or people accessing services you are offering (your geek webpage just got linked by Slashdot). Peering on the otherhand involves you entering into an agreement that in exchange for routing another carriers traffic over part of the network that you provide and foot the bills for, they will let you send traffic over theirs. Think "quid pro quo" and you get the general idea - it's a "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" arrangement in its most basic form.

      In the specific case of the African nations this is quite likely to be unbalanaced; most big web hosts are in the US and, to a lesser extend, in Europe, so most of the traffic on the links to and from Africa is unlikely to contain data that falls into the "peering" catagory. I really don't think that the Africans are getting fleeced; they just don't have the traffic patterns to make peering financially viable to western carriers. When we see major data hosting centers on the dark continent, then we should see the carriers of those data centers getting into peering agreements, until then though they are going to have to pay. The truth is, it's not Africa being singled out at all; the same billing scheme applies in the US and Europe as well. Peering is for carriers, not companies or small ISPs that piggy back of a large one, and Africa just doesn't have too many of those at present.

      • they just don't have the traffic patterns to make peering financially viable to western carriers.

        You sure??? We slammed the hell out of that Nigerian [slashdot.org] server.

        If /. wanted to help Africa get peering contracts they could just start posting stories that link to servers in Africa. The traffic patterns would change in a hurry.
    • Amusing, but.. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Brown ( 36659 )
      Amusing post, but it gives a distorted image of what's happening. The point is that Africa is not being treated as an equal partner.

      For example, if someone in New York sends an email to someone in Nairobi, the African ISP gets charged for the bandwidth.
      If however someone in Nairobi sends an email to someone in New York, guess who gets the bill? Yep, still the African ISP.

      The Western ISPs (possibly the US ones, not sure) are more-or-less using their dominance to take Africa for everything they can get.
      Fair? I don't think so..
      • by hawk ( 1151 )
        If a customer of uunet sends a message to george@momandpop.com, momandpop gets charged.

        if geroge@momandpop.com sends a message of uunet, momandpop gets charged. Yep, *still* the small american ISP.

        Uunet is using its dominance to take american isp's for everything they can get.



      • Sure it's fair. Consider this: suppose the link didn't exist. Who would be complaining the most and want to do something about it: westerners or Africans? The demand for the link is very asymmetric.

        "Fair" only implies "treated as an equal partner" when the two parties really are equals.

      • We don't have to pay for our e-mails. It's like health care, I guess our taxes pay for it or something.

      • Re:Amusing, but.. (Score:3, Informative)

        by Fat Casper ( 260409 )
        Fair? Yeah. What's in Africa, internet-wise? Oh, yeah- nothing. Maybe a story on the latest massacre, but that's from cnn.com in Atlanta.

        It doesn't make any sense for first world ISPs to pay for third world connectivity. There isn't enough demand here for links to backwaters to justify paying for them. Overseas, there's plenty of demand to be connected to us. If I were a shareholder in a US telco, I'd be upset if the board weren't looking out for my interests. Foreign subsidies like this aren't the realm of corporations, but governments. Do Africans want to take a collective $500 million effective drop in their foreign aid just to lower their net access cost? Washigton will happily fund it, but not in addition to whatever the hell else they're handing out.

        I checked out one site in Africa- the one the Nigerian government put up about their scam. That was for a moment's entertainment, not something I feel like paying for their bandwidth to see. I, and the vast majority of Americans, simply do not demand any pipe, much less a fat one, to Africa. Africans want a pipe to America. Why should my ISP pay for 50% of the pipe when they only represent 0.08% of the demand?

  • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:54AM (#3349414) Homepage
    Sad but true. Until you grow enough to be a peer and force on the american telcos that you are a peer you pay.

    Same pricing is valid for every single European ISP that does not possess an american presense and does not sell in at least 8 countries. They have to pay 100% of the transit they buy from MCI/UUNet. And this is a significant fraction of the Internet. You cannot live without buying it (or an alternative which costs about the same).

    Similarly, in Europe ISPs that do not buy from UUNet have to buy from Ebone. Which till recently did not even have peering criteria. Different from :

    You are too small, come again when you grow up.

    By how much we need to grow up?

    No worries our requirements will grow up too...

    So this screaming out loud on behalf of african ISPs is just loads of bull... Unless we start screaming on behalf of all European and all Asian ISPs as well.
    • Some of the difference is that this doesn't seriously hinder development in Europe and most parts of Asia.

      If Africa are to have any hope of joining the industrialized countries in e-commerce (I hate that word), they cannot be exploited like this. This all means that the cost of Internet-access in Africa will be higher than necessary.

      This is also typical of all areas of trade. Africa and other 3rd World countries have always been screwed by the west. You can talk all you want about it's just the free market doing it's business, but it is a serious fault of capitalism. It is always the weak ones that get screwed.
      • Granted some countries in Africa do need help. BUT and this is a BIG BUT... Not countries like Nigeria ... These countries make more than enough in resources such as oil. And there is absolutely no reason for them not to have Internet access. If these countries have problems then it is because of their leaders. For example consider South Africa. Sure it has had a bad past. And it still has problems. But South Africa is moving forward and not faltering as have many other African countries.

        For those countries that have problems like Ethopia I can see a reduction in cost in the form of a subsidy. But that is my limit!!!
    • You are too small, come again when you grow up.

      Seems like a request by the few NSPs of interest (UUNET, Sprint, etc.) to organize a multilateral and present them with the choice of peering or large AS black holes.

      I'm surprised the "continents" haven't formed coalitions of service providers that structure a multilateral between each other, and arrange for such interchange between other majors.

      There's good precedence for this behavior once the multilateral is forced.

      For instance, look at Genuity's blink in a game of chicken with Exodus a couple of years ago. I can just see those old GTE suits they inherited grumbling "Who's this young Exodus whipper snapper - cut them off if they won't pay transit to our precious network. No freeloaders!" Oops... except the only freeloaders were the content-sucking dialup Genuity subscribers. Guess content rules, eh?

      We had a few similar games back in early CIX days - Sprint or NEARNET dropping routes out west, only to receive the wrath of god from customers who discovered Sprint only had 95% of the Internet, while other multilateral-favorable NSPs had 100%.

      So who's going to force the matter? Get that multilateral peering consortium live, send the certified letters to the big boys, and promise a loud marketing campaign pointing out who has real Internet and who has less than 100%. Let it be known that my UUNET doesn't get me to 28 countries and they'll be dropped like a hot potato.

  • No specifics (Score:4, Interesting)

    by alen ( 225700 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:59AM (#3349432)
    The article didn't mention one specific rule or regulation about how costs are split up. Only thing that was written was how bad the western corporations are and so forth. Not one fact. So can anyone tell me how exactly is the west raping african ISP's? How are their payment schemes different than what network providers charge other customers?

  • So in essence, the entire Continent of Africa is paying the salaries of 3 or 4 executives. Now THAT ladies and gentleman, is pimping at it's best.

  • by JamesSharman ( 91225 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:03AM (#3349450)
    For years this was true of Europe (And to a degree still is). The bulk of the transatlantic connectivity is still played for by European companies. This is the underlying reason why broadband and leased lines cost more here in Britain than in the states.

    The situation has been gradually changing because there is demand in the US for some of the content being hosted in Europe, it will take a lot more time for the playing field to level out but it will eventually do so.

    The African question is interesting, for the time being they are going to need to like it or lump it. I can't remember ever wanting to access an African website but my websites show quite a few hits from African domains. The situation for Africa is very much what it was for Europe a decade ago, they want to access the internet as it exists outside there country, it would be outright wrong to ask the rest of the world to pay for it.

    As the African countries gain a larger online presence I'm sure people in the west will want to get at African sites, then they will start to go down the same road that Europe is now heading down.

    Is this a tough barrier to entry into the Internet world? Yes. Should relevant authorities consider help and subsidies to help developing world deal with it? Yes. Is this a blatant attempt to rip of the Africa's of $500bn? Not even close.

  • At the risk of sounding politically incorrect...

    How are these African ISP's being "fleeced" when they're simply being asked to pay what everyone else is paying already? What entitled them to special treatment in the first place?

    • At the risk of sounding like a flamer...

      You don't sound politically incorrect, you sound ignorant.

      Most ISPs operate on a "cost sharing" basis, in that they charge each other for network bandwidth used. In practice, for two ISPs that peer with each other, the amount of bandwidth each uses on the other's network roughly balances out, so the one with the higher usage pays the other relatively little.

      According to this article, American ISPs are not doing this with African ISPs. As the poster comments, that means that if an African ISP sends traffic over AOL's network, it pays, but AOL does not pay for traffic sent over the African ISPs' network.

      Jesus, you didn't even have to follow the link to see that.


      • I think he what he means though is that in this case, the traffic doesn't balance out. How many times do you visit sites in Africa? I don't think I ever have. How many users in Africa visit sites in the US? I would bet that is a fairly large number. That's why the costs are different.

        To look at it another way. I start a small ISP with several thousand users. Will MCI pay to peer with me? No, because it is worth more for me to peer with them since they have access to all the cool sites my users want to visit. This is the same situation, just on a larger scale.

    • Because they're not being asked to pay for what everyone else is paying already - they are being asked to pay what everyone else used to pay.

      How many US ISPs (Not the big international carriers like UUNet etc) do you think pay for a leased line across the pond to the UK and peering to Europe or lines to Asia etc?

      They don't. They peer with people in New York and San Francisco - Asian and European networks however have to install lines at least to the US to get any decent connectivity and they have to pay for that.

      Things have started to change for Europe and Asia but the African nations are no doubt forced to get leased circuits at least into Linx or one of the other big EuroNAPs before they get any decent level of connectivity.

      As Africa's internet connectivity is lagging behind Asia's which has lagged behind Europe's which has lagged behind the USA's they are having to go through the same high cost expansion that European and Asian networks went through to get to the stage where they are large enough for the major carriers to be interested in peering with them in their home countries.

      What is needed is the large carriers, BT, UUnet, ATT etc to fund an AfrIX (trademark) and allow African networks to peer there. AfrIX could be connected to Linx and one of the big US peering points to allow direct peers. This would cut costs across the board.

      M@t :o)

  • They have plenty of money. Here is a good cause. Let them pay for it.
  • by carlosm ( 574043 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:10AM (#3349487)
    I work as network admin, i'm the technical POC in ARIN for our netblocks and i can tell you that the same happens here in South America (Uruguay) with our big-carrier providers (CW and UUNet nowadays)

    Even worse is the fact that since Worldcom bought Embratel (the big Brazilian carrier) two years ago, they've cancelled all regional IP links we used to have. Now they want to force us into buying BW only to the US.

    So, people living on the Uruguay-Brazil border have to go to USA to ping their accross-the-street neighbors. Quite an optimal network design in my humble opinion :-)

  • And the point is? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jht ( 5006 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:10AM (#3349491) Homepage Journal
    Western ISP's generally have peering arrangements - because the traffic between them is more symmetrical. It's still not free - it's just that they absorb the costs themselves instead of writing checks to one another that wash out. Anyplace where the demands are asymmetrical, there will be money paid from the smaller ISP to the larger one for the interconnection. Duh.

    If and when Africa as a continent has resources that are compelling destinations for Western internet users, then the traffic loads will balance and the ISP's will come to arrangements where they peer with them instead of just billing them. Right now (at least according to my inbox), the biggest thing the African continent contributes to the Internet as a whole is "419" e-mails.

    It's not a Western conspiracy to keep Africa subjugated. It's just math, folks. When two parties have roughly equal assets, they will work out a deal to trade with one another. When one has all the assets, the one without pays. Are you willing to subsidize another continent by having another buck or two tacked on to your cablemodem bill? They'd probably do better by deregulating their national telecom providers and cooperating with one another.

    Nothing is stopping African nations from interconnecting and peering with one another, as the article kind of points out. If they rely on Western ISP's to interconnect with each other, they'll pay for the privilege.

    The whole point of this article is that the head of Kenya's ISP association wants a handout. Not gonna happen.
  • by z84976 ( 64186 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:18AM (#3349527) Homepage
    Yes, phone costs are split 50-50... but No, internet costs are not! You pay your ISP how much per month for that cable modem? Do you think AT&T cable should be paying for half of it? What makes you think that is right? What if I open an ISP here in the States... a big one, as big as AOL, let's say. Now, when my users send email to AOL, who's paying for the bandwidth? Well, I pay while it's on my network, they pay when it's on theirs. Not their fault that my network may tend to end at the limits of my most distant customer, yet theirs may reach halfway across the country to meet me...

    Ok, all I'm saying is, all this "abuse of Africa" aside (which may or may not have historically been the case with their interations with the Europeans et al... that's not the point I'm here to comment on) this IS NORMAL. WHY SHOULD I PAY THE COST OF RUNNING CABLE to where THEY WANT IT? Yeah, we had a big strong government pay for it for us, and they have no such luck. Sorry, but there ARE BENEFITS to having a rich powerful government. It does not make it unfair or wrong.
  • Half-wit proposal (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ikobi ( 169942 )
    "And he said that if data network operators in the West were forced to adhere to the same regulations as voice operators then they would have to pay half the cost. "

    This "idea" has been around for quite a while, I've heard it from N. American, European, Asian, and Australian ISPs. Everyone would love to have someone else pay for part of their connection, but no one ever comes up with a workable connection agreement.

    Imagine this, lets set up a connection between our two Internet networks. You pay me for every byte you send me, I'll pay you for every byte I send you. For simplicty, it can even be the same rate (even though we may have very different coverages, costs, etc). This is not unlike the voice world type of interconnect agreements.

    Now lets play the game. Guess how much email AOL is going to send to Africa/Australia/Europe if they have to pay additionally to do so? How much web surfing will you do in Africa/Australia/Europe? Oh wait, I have to pay to send you the contents of the site? No thanks.

    This is not exploitation (isn't this essentially trying to place the race card?), it's market economics. As these markets grow and mature they will be able to strike better deals w/ other providers, today they cannot.
  • Hey, no suprise there.. Telcos are the biggest scumbags of all industries (next to Oil companies... they sill hold King scumbags title)

    China and these other countries will just simply build their own internet and probably just simply mirror popular US sites and seperate themselves from the gouging west.

    Sadly, there is nothing to fix this.. American citizens could care less, and they wont go bitching or even boycott anything (Hell Enron is still trading on the NasDaq.. what the hell is up with that?)
    • by technos ( 73414 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:49AM (#3349718) Homepage Journal
      We're treating the African ISPs the same as we would treat the same sized ISP here in the states. You generate enough traffic, I'll peer with you and we'll split the bill. You don't generate enough traffic? Oh, well. You pay full rate for your bandwidth.

      The gentleman was complaining that they're being gouged because the telecom companies are not giving them free money. The ITU decided to be nice and force all the telephone companies to give them a handout on telephone service, and this fellow thinks the ITU should require them to do so on data traffic as well.

      My attitude is somewhere between 'Get off yer lazy ass and lay some cable, foo' and 'This guy is worse than the Pontiac street-people that think merely because they exists, the world, and myself by extention, owe him $5 so they can go buy crack or a bottle of Thunderbird.'
      • I was in the ISP biz. and the telcos DO gouge for bandwidth at the low end. Even when you offer to buy all equipment (most now require it and then sign over ownership of those new Cisco routers with the CSU/DSU inside to them) and then they bend you over and see how loud you can scream. THEN to top it off the Backbone I had access through would intentionally cut you off at peak times to "save bandwidth". (I won a class action lawsuit on them because of that btw)..

        Granted this was back in 1996-1997 when I finally bailed and sold my userbase)

        Backbone providers are thieves. I felt it first hand and they are gouging.
  • by aleonard ( 468340 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:23AM (#3349547)
    Let's say you have someone living out in the middle of nowhere. And they want cable. Should the rest of the subscribers have to pay so that they can get their connection at the same price as everyone else? Or, should they have to foot the bill for the extras, like extra cabling, extra service costs, etc? No matter if they DO or not, but in my eye, it would seem only right that people with special needs like that pay their own way. Otherwise, move closer to town or go without cable.

    Africa is the same way. Like it or not, but as far as the Internet is concerned, it's still a very small number of people in the middle of nowhere, as far as cabling and backboning goes.

    As others have said, small ISPs don't get paid by the big ones for each email, do they? Then why is it special when an ISP in Africa is treated in the same fashion? At this point in time, by necessity any ISP in Africa is small, compared to almost any ISP in America.

    According to the article, there's 4 million people hooked up to the Internet, across 54 countries. This doesn't seem to me to be a big enough population to even able to begin to think about dictating prices and policies. The person in the middle of nowhere is complaining.

    The article claims that International Telecommunications Union regulations ensure that telephony costs between Africa and "the West" are split 50:50. Unless this arrangement is universal, Africa's telephone system has clearly been heavily subsidized. There's NO mention made in this article if ITU regulations apply to the Internet in other places, yet it's simply assumed that they should apply in Africa. A blatant omission, and poor journalism.

    And another comment; how is Africa defined? Do ISPs in Casablanca and Cairo have this same problem? What differentiates an ISP in Cairo from one in Tel Aviv or Istanbul? The only country named in the article is Kenya, and no mention made at all of the countries that are physically close to Europe.

    I, unfortunately, do not truly know what the economics behind all this are, and others can handle whether or not this is even a plausible argument. This is simply a critique of the article, and a suitable analogy.

    A politically correct article designed to elicit appeals to repair the 'digital divide.'

    • Yes, PC lives, and lots of slashdotters are PC-brainwashed !

      I posted a message and it got moded down to "-1". If that's not enough, someone replied me with "what about slavery" thing.

      As if the world still go out to Africa and capture the Africans to be their slaves.

      Damn.... I thought the slashdotters are educated bunch, unfortunately, I was wrong.
  • by nochops ( 522181 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:25AM (#3349563)
    In less than one year, I've received 19 emails from various Nigerian government officials, as well as several from the Republic Republic of Congo, each promising me at least $30 million if I store some money for them.

    That comes to $17,100,000,000, more than enough to pay the paltry $500 million bandwidth bill.
  • This is a glorious socialist point of view where we the "haves" subsidize those who are the "have-nots." What's next on the agenda? I heard that Africans have to pay full price for the cars they by from the US and that keeps them under our imperialistic heel. We'd better make our car companies sell them cars for half price. Let's not forget their clothes. Lord knows the average African can't afford a decent pair of Levis. We'll have to cut them a deal on that as well.

    This subsidizing of Africa would never stop if some get there way. Let not forget that When Egypt was the economic center of the Mediterranean they weren't exactly helping Europeans out of the meager life style.

    Africa is in the miserable economic state it is in because of its people and politics. Those are issues they will have to solve for themselves.
    • This is a glorious socialist point of view where we the "haves" subsidize those who are the "have-nots."

      In no way does that statement even come close to describing - or even criticizing - socialism. Most USians seem to think that anything to the left of Rush Limbaugh must be socialism. Well it ain't so.

      But I agree that Africans aren't entitled to subsidies on telecomm. We can grant them if we wish, for whatever reasons, but I see no moral imperative to do so.
  • by anthroLogik ( 574045 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:48AM (#3349713)
    I agree with other posters who say "Can someone subsidise my T1?" What this ISP operator from Kenya is saying is that he wants cheaper bandwidth. His business is doing fine and access is growing, but that isn't enough. I live in Zambia where we have about 4 ISPs (one of which is UUNet). A dialup here is about $20/month. Not bad? Can the average Zambian afford that? No. Can the average Zambian afford a computer or the education to be able to use it or the electricity to run it? No. If we make the bandwidth cheaper, will that get information to the masses? No. A dialup here is $20 a month because all bandwidth here comes from satellite uplink. That may be different in Kenya, but for many African countries it is the norm. It ain't cheap to have a bird up there bouncing the signals and a high volume of users to spread the cost we don't have. ANother reason is that African governments latch on to any enterprise that sounds remotely profitable like a pitbull. My ISP pays $40,000 a year in licensing fees to the gov and are further forced to collect something like $2/month per user in government fees. Of course the government owns the telco too (which is a competing ISP BTW) so extra dialup lines take forever to secure. I know from experience that the Kenyan telco is the same way. You want a leased line? Pay the right person and maybe it will happen this year. Why is African connectivity expensive? Like every other problem facing Africa today it is largely a result of corrupt governments leeching resources away from their people and then holding out their hand for more assistance. It is true that Africa has subsidised the development of the West, but it will take a lot more than subsidies back (in the form of cheap bandwidth or debt relief) to fix the economic damage done in the past 30-40 years since most countries have had their independence.
    • The Somalian people have found the solution to that: they deposed their western-style government and have returned to a clan system of governance. And since clans have no concept of taxation, it's an entrepreneurs paradise (modulo US Government threats).
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "It is true that Africa has subsidised the development of the West, but it will take a lot more than subsidies back (in the form of cheap bandwidth or debt relief) to fix the economic damage done in the past 30-40 years since most countries have had their independence."
      Of course however untasteful you may find it, the colonials did actually build up infrastructure and economies in African countries, be it with questionable labour practices. However, corrupt governments have spent the last 50 years destroying said infrastructure, lining their own pockets and then managed to blame the West for doing so, and people have bought this. So the West has then coughed up money out of guilt, and this has repeated for decades now, but the problems gets progressively worse.

      I can remember when Ghana went independent, it was a nice country with a productive economy and a healthy future, Kwame Nkrumah did well, apart from some indulgences like putting his picture on all the currency, but all was well, then Ankrah came along and thereon out I saw a nice country being fucked by a bunch of people who thought democracy was a form of theatre, what amazed me was their capacity to paint themselves as victims even though their opulence and exploitation, murder, intimidation make the colonials look fucking tame.

      It's not easy to appoint blame, realise your own shortcomings and fix real problems in your own backyard when you can just go and blame it on someone else, amazingly this is what keeps complete despots in power, it's desperately sad. This is why I do not view money provided for education as a handout, it's the only way democracy can function, however I've seen regimes keep the money for themselves in what appears to be greed and an attempt to keep their own populace uneducated and therefore malleable, it's a way of staying in power, what is needed is for the West to say to these countries "this isn't fucking on" but then said leaders scream "colonialism" and nothing changes.
  • I am seeing a lot of messages pointing out that Africa may perhaps not host enough content to make peering feasible for the American telcos.

    While this may be, and probably is, accurate, I think we might be missing something. Is it helpful to just measure the network traffic directed to Africa, or is that comparing apples to oranges? That is, is 1 MB of African Internet content equivalent to 1 MB of American or European or Asian content?

    Let's look at other types of "content". For years (centuries!) Africans were locked out of the music industry using similar reasoning. At the turn of the 20th century, the only "black" entertainers were racist white men in blackface! But as soon as they were given a chance, the Africans gave us blues, rock, jazz, rap, hip hop, R&B, funk, and the list goes on. Pretty much everything except Kraftwerk!

    And I don't need to point out the advances made by Africans in other media. Anyone remember the Oscars?

    In short, if Africa had been in on the dot-com boom, maybe we would have seen a much higher level of competence. Africans have demonstrated time and again that they are up to the task of competing on a level basis with the white man. Not only that, but they have shown a tendancy to go one step better. If we take a small hit now by getting rid of these outrageous charges to African ISPs, we will all benefit as the Internet receives a much-needed infusion of black blood.

  • by DaoudaW ( 533025 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @10:06AM (#3349829)
    Capitalism may not have a conscience, but many people using the fruits of capitalism do. Although it may at times appear to be, the global economic system isn't self-perpetuating. It is in fact perpetuated by powerful people making decisions which affect the powerless.

    So I am offend by all the posts saying, "It's inevitable, so boo hoo!" It's _not_ inevitable that Africa pays both ways, and technologically privileged users can make a difference. Slashdotters in particular have a responsibility to act on behalf of their less privileged counterparts.

    How many of you have ever had to pay for an email which has been sent to you?
    • How many of you have ever had to pay for an email which has been sent to you?

      Ummm, probably every single person who has ever paid an ISP for access to the Internet. Not everyone gets it free from work or school, millions of Americans actually pay $20-$50 a month, sometimes more, for access. (sarcasm) Shouldn't we find some way for them to get access without paying for the full cost of the phone line and access? (/sarcasm)

    • How many of you have ever had to pay for an email which has been sent to you?

      I have. Many times. I still have to pay for my connectivity, both upload and download, on my personal account. It's just a flat rate now, but it used to be metered when I had dialup. So a big Nigerian scam email with lots of HTML cost me more than a two-liner from a US friend.

      Think of this as an incentive to actually link Africa to Africa and remove its dependence on the rest of the world. Then they can prove all those Marxist Dependencia theorists right!

      I bet Africa has to pay when they import more agricultural products than they export, too...
  • Phone costs shared? (Score:2, Informative)

    by thogard ( 43403 )
    Phone costs aren't quite shared. They are set by the local countries and the US prices are set close to that. Where you have goverments that insist on high taxes on calls (like Egypt), the rates to call there are high. In other places where the taxes aren't as high (like the UK), the rates are some of the lowest.
  • I don't see the issue. That is something for ISPs to work out between each other. If they can't come up with a two way peering agreement, it's probably because one side doesn't really care if the other side is there or not.

  • The story has been up for a while but no one seems to have mentioned the reason why the pricing works this way:

    Voice conversations are symmetrical. Roughly equal traffic goes in both directions, which is why a 50/50 split is used in pricing. This story focuses on email, which obscures the fact that total intercontinental Internet traffic is wildly asymmetrical. North America serves a vastly disproportionate amount of content, especially compared to Africa or South America. For that reason, US carriers don't split costs.

    As others have noted, this applies in varying degrees to ISPs in other continents.

    It may not be 'nice' but it's hardly as arbitrary and unfair as the story makes out. It's a shame people don't grasp that Africans are real people with real political and economic issues -- not imaginary cartoons to invoke when arguing the superiority or evil of the West.

  • Lots of the comments I've seen are along the lines of "let them pay like everyone else, there's no free lunch" or "African countries are led by corrupt elites, it's their fault". Sadly, this is pretty reflective of the general attitude I find in America.

    Perhaps the more open-minded /. readers might reflect on the fact that the industrialization of England and America would not have been possible without "Black ivory" (slaves) from Africa who for centuries provided the basic source of wealth of the plantation econonmy which in turn subsidized the industrial revolution? Or that the huge profits from the mineral wealth & exploited labor of the Congo under the Belgians (and after the CIA killed Lumumba, under the "independent" rule of the puppet Mengistu) served to massively increase the wealth of the developed world, and still play a key role in providing the raw materials for the high-tech "revolution" (see: for a NY Times piece on this [slashdot.org]).

    When the colonialists were finally forced out, them made sure that the new elites would keep the profits flowing (with a nice commission for themselves, of course), and if the people demand niceties like democracy or an end to corruption, there will always be the military to straighten things out.

    Am I oversimplifying? Sure, but so are many of the posts I see here, like the racist one I saw here comparing African nations to homeless people panhandling for crack money.

    Ever wonder why so many people in Nigeria, say, regard Osama bin Laden as a hero? You can't rob, colonize and oppress people for centuries and insist it's a level playing field, folks. Read some history, get a sense of why Africa is so messed up, and how *your* lifestyle is related to all this.

  • Here's an ITU presentation [itu.int] on Internet costs and bandwidths in Africa. Traffic figures for 1999 are given.

    There's very little inter-country bandwidth within Africa. This presentation says there was only 7.5 Mbit/s between countries in Africa (including the Arab states, like Egypt), but 170Mbit/s from Africa to North America. "African ISPs spend a much higher proportion of their costs on telecom costs (esp. international connectivity) than ISPs in developed economies."

    Also see BalancingAct-africa.com [balancingact-africa.com], which covers ISPs in Africa.

    Overall, it looks a lot like US internet services circa 1990. High per-hour prices, low bandwidths, long latency.

  • Hah! I'm from Africa, and this doesn't bug me. Parts of Africa have some very cool toys and are way ahead of the USA in some ways (Dropped any calls lately on your cellphone? *snicker*). Another example would be electronic banking in South Africa which is waaaay better there than the US. (Yes, I have lived in both countries.)

    We just have to teach certain parts of our population that nothing comes for free, and you bloody well get what you work for. The people that just knuckle down and do things do some very cool stuff.

    So I guess what I'm saying is: Don't stress. We'll handle, and when we take over the world, we'll be nice to you. ;-)
  • [Richard Bell, Chairman of Kenya's ISP Association said,]"This is exploitation... These networks are raping Africa of half a billion dollars a year."

    I think that the fairness of the current setup has already been discussed sufficiently.

    What I want to point out is the incendiary language used by the quoted speaker. This is pretty funny coming from a continent where the victims of rape are subject to execution. [africana.com]

    Kenya, the speaker's home country, has a lot worse problems [globalmarch.org] than high telco charges. Of course, it's a lot safer to complain about the telcos than one's own miscreant government. Especially when that government, unlike the telcos, will actually kill and rape dissidents, and does so on a wholesale basis.

    This article is a completely non-critical piece of crap, as is the accompanying slashdot write-up.

    A better summary would be:

    Africa sucks, it's their own damn fault, and the rulers like to use the West as a scapegoat.
  • Ok, let's paint a picture. Every ISP owns equipment to pass packets around. Routers, Repeaters and so forth. If I'm on Cox Cable, and I want to send something to AOL (directly) that means that the two companies must have some sort of agreement by which they carry each others packets. They may make a deal whereby AOL will take 10 packets if Cox takes 15 (small numbers, yes) and on top of that the other company must pay a certain price, with Cox paying an initial 300k a year. Now, if I'm cruising to Slashdot to read up on today's news, I may go through Cox, then AOL, then Verizon, then 4 other companies before I get to Slashdot's provider. Because of this there are webs of deals on how traffic is passed around.

    Now, obviously, every company wants to get the best deals they can. That means using their leverage to negotiate better trade offs. Now, if you're in Africa you need to access American sites much more than Americans need to access African sites. This gives the Bells and American ISPs an advantage. They can negotiate bitching deals because they have all the leverage. Yes, this isn't nice, but its business, and if it weren't worth it to the African companies, they simply wouldn't pay it. If they go out of business otherwise, then damn right they're willing to pay alot. So, American ISPs and such get good deals because they have superior wares; much more to offer. African ISPs get sucky deals because they don't. Its called business, good and fair. And $500m IS NOT that much in the long run for all of Africa (of the Africans who use the internet that is).

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson