Unpaid bill cuts web access in Zim

Government failure to pay a $700 000 bill from a satellite company has brought Zimbabwe’s internet services to a virtual standstill.

Internet users have complained of long delays in sending and receiving emails, painfully slow browsing speeds and problems connecting to many websites since Intelsat, one of the world’s biggest communications companies, severed a satellite link that provided about three-quarters of the bandwidth used by state-owned communications firm TelOne.

The country’s biggest internet service provider (ISP), MWeb Zimbabwe, issued a statement apologising to subscribers for the delays, but said it did not know when TelOne would settle its debt with Intelsat to have the satellite link restored.

”This is catastrophic, as all legal ISPs utilise TelOne for their outgoing bandwidth to the web as well as for email traffic. In short, this … is causing an almost collapse of the internet in Zimbabwe,” said the MWeb statement.

A spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Internet Service Providers Association, an independent body representing all ISPs in the country, said they were working with the government and TelOne to resume normal internet services.

”We have been trying for three weeks to find out what the problem is, and TelOne finally told us it was a problem of payment,” said the association’s spokesperson. ”Now we are trying to find out what the plan is to get the problem resolved, but so far there has been little movement in that direction.”

TelOne declined to answer questions posed via telephone and email.

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