Botswana ISPs Form Group, Call Telco Unfair

GABORONE, BOTSWANA (03/10/2000) - The electronic cold war between Botswana's ISPs (Internet service providers) and the country's main telecommunications carrier -- and sole Internet access provider -- has escalated, with the ISPs now forming an association to press their case against Botswana Telecommunication Corp. (BTC).

At issue are the allegedly high-handed, monopolistic practices of BTC in pricing, quality of service, and providing value-added services. Adding to the ISPs' sense of injury, BTC now doubles as both the AP and an ISP, having recently created a wholly owned subsidiary to provide Internet services, Botsnet (http://www.botsnet.bw).

Lawrence Masungwa, interim chairman of the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), has said the organization will seek legal remedies for the BTC's actions from the regulatory organization here, the Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA). The ISPA hopes that with BTA's arbitration, the issue of unfair competition from BTC's Botsnet can be resolved. Members of the ISPA are concerned that Botsnet will have an unfair advantage, getting better terms and quality of service from BTC than competing ISPs.

Since Botsnet was formed late last year, other ISPs have suffered from "deplorable" dialup and Net access services, according to one anonymous source.

The ISPA also intends to wage a war against what it views as BTC's overly high prices. A 64K bits per second leased line costs 10,700 pula or about US$ 2,377 per month, Masungwa said. The ISPA considers that rate too high compared the world average.

In addition, ISPs want to offer value-added services such as dedicated digital lines to their clients without hassles and foot-dragging by the telco. ISPs' experiences are that BTC's response to requests is slow and that has cost the ISPs lost business. Also costing the ISPs revenues has been BTC's slow response to queries and service problems, Masungwa said.

ISPs involved in the ISPA include Usko (http://www.info.bw), mega (http://www.mega.bw), 4site Creations (http://www.4site.bw) and Interswana (http://www.it.bw).

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