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Zimbabwean internet problems persist

Government late paying the bill

Large-scale internet connection problems in Zimbabwe have continued for about a month because of a late payment to a satellite-based telecom provider.

Zimbabwe's ISPs still have only about 10 percent of usual bandwidth available to them after the government-owned TelOne telecommunications provider fell $700,000 behind on its bill to Intelsat, according to Zispa, the Zimbabwe ISPs' Association.

"Mail traffic is delayed and outbound internet traffic is appallingly slow, and many sites unreachable," Zispa chairman Nikki Lear said in an email yesterday. Intelsat had been providing a 17Mbps (megabits per second) outbound connection from Zimbabwe, Zispa said.

Intelsat, in Pembroke, Bermuda, has not cut off total internet access to its Zimbabwe customers, according to 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 DC, US, did not return messages seeking comment on the unpaid bill.

Zispa had hoped the problem could be cleared up by 8 September, the group said on its website. 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 on Friday that a satellite providing telecommunications services to 27 customers across Africa had experienced a "sudden and unexpected anomaly". As of late yesterday, 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.

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