Kenyan's are about to start paying more for electronic mail access following a decision by JamboNet, the sole Internet backbone provider, to raise its tariffs by up to 40 per cent. Currently, most cyber cafes charge Sh1 for every minute spent surfing the Internet. The new tariffs are expected to increase access costs by 50 cents.

The increase came via an e-mail communication from Mr J. Rukaria, the manager for Internet Protocol Network to Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The new structure takes effect on September 1, 2004, and dictates that ISPs pay JamboNet more for speeds above 512 kilobytes (Kbps). Consequently, the lowest increment is Sh469,014 up from Sh372,294 for the 512Kbts while those at 2 Mbps will pay Sh1.1 million up from Sh744,588.

The ISP's are expected to pass the cost to their customers, since according to Tespok, the industry's main pressure group, their monthly payment to Telkom Kenya will shoot up to between Sh4.5 million and Sh6 million from Sh3 million for 8 megabytes provided. Rukaria explains that the new charges are meant to partly finance Telkom's Internet service expansion and to improve quality of JamboNet's service. "As you are aware, more and more real time applications are being implemented on the internet with higher quality of service demands,? said Rukaria.

Indeed, an increasingly complicated Kenyan society is warming up to video and audio streaming, which enable chat room systems, music download and voice over Internet traffic. These applications, especially the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) are said to use up to 30 per cent of Telkom's bandwidth capacity.

But in an interview with the Financial Standard, Tespok CEO Sunny Mangat dispels the service improvement claim made by Rukaria. Mangat guarantees that without a Service Level Agreement (SLA) to benchmark the quality of service Telkom will provide its customers, it is rather obvious they "just want more money."

"The issue is that I am not getting more services and I am not getting a better service either, but I am just expected to pay 50 per cent more for the same service," Mangat says. "Telkom Kenya to my knowledge has not even given us a Service Level Agreement (SLA) meaning if I have to pay more to Telkom Kenya and one day Telkom Kenya?s services are not satisfactory to me, Telkom Kenya will not refund me for that yet I am still answerable to my clients," he says.

Indeed, an industry source familiar with the matter told the Financial Standard that JamboNet is paying up to Sh725,400 per megabit, or three times higher than the global price of Sh280,800.

Financial Standard