The SEACOM outage – the view from Rwanda


As the internet breakdown enters it fifth day, businesses that rely on internet connection for their operations are counting their losses by the day, with some switching their Internet Service Providers (ISP). Blues Internet Café, one of the busiest internet cafes in the city centre, last week switched from Rwandatel to another service provider. The Café operators, who preferred anonymity, explained that they started experiencing the breakdown on Sunday and that they had since incurred losses since clients were not coming in. "We initially thought it was a minor and temporary breakdown but it persisted, that why we opted to change to another ISP," said the operator. Post Office Internet Cafe, another renowned cafe in town is currently still facing problems and has also lost many clients. Chanella Biseruka, the cafe operator, said that they have not had business for the last two days. Media reports have indicated that the breakdown occurred on April 14 after the SEACOM marine submarine cable was damaged by a ship but repairs did not commence until April 25 and are scheduled to go on to until, Friday, April 30, 2010. Speaking to The New Times, Rwandatel's Chief Technical Officer, Basilio Sadandi, said that several businesses have continuously complained to the telecom company over Internet failure. "The problem came from SEACOM marine submarine cables (SWM4). We haven't known what the problem is but we have received continual promises from SEACOM that they are trying to rectify the problem”. Sadandi said that once they entered a contract with SEACOM, they nullified their agreements with two satellite internet providers. "The breakdown of the fibre cable leaves us with one option of using one channel of satellite that why our clients are facing slow Internet. I am in contact with SEACOM and they have promised me that the problem will be rectified by midnight today, (last week)," he said. Sadandi regretted the misfortunes causes by internet breakdown and hastened to add that Rwanda is currently setting up another satellite link while upgrading the existing one and that by the end of this week the bandwidth should have increased. "We are aware that people's businesses are slowing down because of Internet failure but we have plans to compensate our clients for any damaged caused," said Sadandi. He, however, could not reveal details of his company's contract with SEACOM regarding penalties that would taken in such a situation but said that something will have to be done depending to the reports that will be availed by SEACOM. According to Sadindi, the breakdown is also being experience by all ISPs that have an agreement with SEACOM. "Interestingly, we have another option of connecting to the TEAMS cable which comes through Tanzania via Burundi to Kigali. This means that after the connection, we will have multiple options and our clients will be enjoying the opportunities we will be availing them," he said. Currently, what is more worrying is that SEACOM has clearly indicated that it's not in control of the situation and "that the repair window may be extended to Friday 30 April 2010 for reasons unknown to SEACOM at this point".