Two internet service rivals, UUNet Kenya and Wananchi Online, are entangled in a legal dispute over alleged breach of a network agreement worth more than Sh35 million. UUNet has sued Telkom Kenya and Wananchi for what it claims is the transfer of eight circuit lines to its competitor.

This alleged breach, the ISP claims, has exposed it to possible financial and other costs to its business and clients who require uninterrupted internet access. UUNet claims that the transfer forced it to pay for new access lines from Telkom Kenya.The case was argued before vacation judge Leonard Njagi at the Milimani Commercial Courts.

UUNet Kenya’s lawyers, Kamau Karori and Martin Munyu, got interim orders pending an inter-parties hearing. The orders restrain Telkom and Wananchi from transferring or using the EI Circuit lines under No 69055 pending the referral of the dispute to arbitration. Other orders sought were a temporary injunction orders compelling Telkom Kenya to re-transfer the lines in dispute.

A supporting affidavit sworn by UUNet’s’s regional managing director, Henry Njoroge, says by a memorandum of Network Service Agreement dated August 29 2002, UUNet Kenya undertook to provide a Network Service to Wananchi On-line in respect of its Dial Access business in Kenya on a non exclusive basis.

The ISP says it allocated the lines to Wananchi and that agreement could only be terminated by either party giving a written twelve-month notice to the other. A clause in the agreement specifically provides that all disputes, if not settled amicably, should be referred to arbitration.

Mr Njoroge claims that the agreement was terminated on December 3 last year, on grounds that it had been breached, citing reasons such as high pricing of its services. During the hearing, lead counsel for Wananchi, Fred Ngatia, objected and asked that the temporary injunctions be set aside as they were illegal.

In an affidavit , Wananchi’s operations director Joseph Mucheru says Clauses 2 and 3 of the agreement stated that should the parties terminate the agreement for any reason, UUNet would be obliged to transfer the dial and access numbers to Wananchi He says another internet service provider, Kenya Data Networks Limited, have agreed to host lines for Wananchi at prices lower than those of UUNet. Joseph Mucheru alleges that UUnet has no interest in the circuit lines and intends to sabotage or cripple its competitors business. The court will rule on the dispute at the end of the month.

The Nation