Some would be embarrassed to admit it, but I am going to give it to you straight up: I don’t watch, listen to, or read the news. It’s not that I like to be out of the loop; rather, this is a defense mechanism that I developed after first being exposed to the gruesome, horrific, doomsday nature of news in Kenya. After spending many troubled nights feeling like the world was a horrible place, nights on which coincidentally I had watched the evening news, I put two-and-two together and decided to forgo having my finger on the pulse of current events, in favor of being a calmer, happier, more positive Nairobi resident. This defense mechanism eventually spilled over to all forms of daily news including newspapers and news on radio, as well as to other countries (well, except for Uganda, where I find reading The New Vision a real pleasure…but I digress).
How do I keep abreast of what’s going on in the world, you might ask? My response to you would be: if something is really important and worth knowing about, then people will be talking (and blogging) about it, so eventually I’d find out somehow. Take, for instance, the advent of submarine fiber optic cable to East Africa.
I first caught wind that fiber would be landing in East Africa through local tech blogs, such as Moses Kemibaro’s blog (an excellent tech blog, by the way!). And with bloggers being a more technically inclined lot than the average, the East African blogosphere was awash with posts relating to this much awaited event. Personally, although I was happy to hear that I had reason to hope for faster, cheaper Internet connectivity in the near future, I had my doubts about how long it would take for the expected benefits of the cable(s) to trickle down to the everyday Internet user. After living in East Africa for 9 years, I wasn’t holding my breath.
On July 23, 2009, marked by great fanfare across East and Southern Africa, the first submarine fiber optic cable system to serve Africa’s eastern seaboard, SEACOM, went live. A 15,000 km cable network connecting France, Egypt, Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, and India, the launch of the SEACOM submarine fiber optic cable system seemed to many “the dawn of a new era for communications between the continent and the rest of the world” given its designed capacity of 1.28 Terabits per second.
SEACOM’s launch date came and went without much notice from me, since my Tanzania Telecommunications Ltd. (TTCL) home Internet connection seemed the same as always (though in hindsight, I should be truthful and say it became a little faster shortly after this). Whatever the case, as I said earlier, I wasn’t holding my breath anyway.
Then on October 3, 2009, I woke up to find this press release in a local newspaper (which I wasn’t reading of course but which was brought to my attention ). The press release said that my ISP was finally rolling out the benefits of being connected to the SEACOM cable to us, its customers. Needless to say, I was surprised and had to find out more.
Upon contacting my ISP, I found out that even without taking any action, the cost of my Internet service had decreased by 20%. Although this seemed like a move in the right direction, I also knew that it meant that my connection was still pretty pricey. What I was hoping for was a fast service that granted me unlimited usage of the Internet for an affordable flat-fee monthly payment. The best that my ISP could offer was either a very fast, less expensive (than I was already paying), pay-per-use package, or a slower, unlimited-usage, flat-fee monthly package that would cost me about a third of my household’s cumulative Internet expenditure. The members of my household and I opted to try out TTCL’s unlimited broadband service.
At first, I was frustrated by the new slower speed of my Internet connection. For quite a while, I threatened to anyone who was willing to listen that I would revert to the older, more expensive – though faster – service that I’d been using. After dusting off my tabbed browsing skills though, I learned to deal with the slower speed and started to enjoy that I could spend as much time as I wanted on the Internet, whenever I wanted, without having to think about how data-intensive some online activities can be (think: Facebook, Video, and downloading applications). Today, although I wish my ISP would offer me a faster monthly unlimited-use package, I am generally happier with my Internet service now than I was before the landing of the SEACOM cable.
How about you? How has the advent of fiber optic cables to East Africa changed your Internet experience? Are you happy about these changes? Do they match the expectations you had before the cables arrived? (On that note, I’ve noticed a lot more video on East African websites, so I know at least a few people must really be enjoying the new fiber experience. ) I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
That’s all from me today.
Until the next time,