Zimbabwe's Internet Has Been Switched Off

I would have liked to give you live-updates (what we call live blogging) on the fueral of Susan Tsvangirai. In fact, because I live in Zimbabwe, and in Harare specifically, you will see that most news appears here on this blog before it is even known to the world.

But of late, this has not been possible for the reason explained by the picture above.

The picture shows what is called the ComOne National Backbone for Internet (the green boxes at the top of the diagram), together with what are called gateways, basically, the points through which ALL Internet information flows either to or from Zimbabwe.

ComOne are, by law, the only company allowed to be the gateway out of Zimbabwe with regards to data (Internet). They are a government-owned company (that should explain everything, then).

Apparently the main Global Connex gateway was switched off because ComOne had not paid their supplier. This happened on March 5 and as of today we are still not back on line.

Since then, we have been relying on six red boxes at the bottom of the diagram above, which are called, apparently, the South African Links. As you can see, they are all red right now, which means they have also broken down, cutting Zimbabwe off from the internet completely. The SA Links have been out for two days now.

The only other solution to get around this would be to use satellite technology, so that you connect yourself to the Internet without relying on ComOne.

The problem with this is that just the licence to be allowed to import and set up such a satellite (that's the licence fee payable to the Zim government, is US$500 000 - five hundred thousand American Dollars).

This picture is captured off the website of an ISP here in Harare, Utande and can be seen at http://utande.co.zw

Of all the ISPs in ZImbabwe, the Utande guys are the only ones providing this service for their clients and all indications are that, on service alone, they can not be beaten here in Zimbabwe. You can visit this site at any time of the day or night and if you see all the bottom boxes red, including the Central Global Connex icon, then you can be certain that Zimbabwe will not be able to access the Internet at all, except for sites that end with .co.zw.

How am I publishing this, then? Well, the ISP we use for our offices seem to have their own way around the problem and you can connect and update things when it is not so busy, like now, at 8:30p.m. I am not naming them because I am not sure if their solution is legal or not and I would not want to get them into trouble.

I normally connect using a laptop and a wireless 3G modem, which works only within a 25kilometre radius of Harare, but this service being owned by another parastatal or government company, they only use ComOne as their gateway, so right now, that little thing is completely useless to me.

I thought I would let you know and next time you can check that site to see if I will be available to chat with you on the chatroll at the bottom of this page. If the Global Connex is out, I most probably will not be ale to connect at all, and this is guaranteed if the other six SAIX links are also shown as red.

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