It is a month since the SEACOM cable went live.
The cable company had promised how the cable was going to make bandwidth cheaper but when pinned down to explain how exactly the cost would come down, SEACOM executives rebuffed “uninformed” consumers asking them to ask their ISPs about connectivity and costs. It is ironical that a company hypes up issues and when pinned down, it points to another party.
But what SEACOM did not tell Kenyans who may not understand the tier system was that when the cable goes live, SEACOM would be the big boy at the highest level, interacting with the public data operators and big telcos and not the ordinary kenyans with limited technology knowledge.
What SEACOM did not tell us was that they are investors who are out to recoup their investments and did not care about incessant questions directed at the wrong party- after all, it is my ISP that provides the last mile solution and not SEACOM.
That is why even if the costs have not exactly come down, you can not question SEACOM because they are not involved in how you put your food on the table, whether the ISP overcharges you or does not deliver what is promised, there is nothing you can do.
Yes, KDN and Access Kenya have taken time to say how the bandwidth has come down. KDN Butterfly allegedly dropped by 90 percent and Access Kenya doubled subscribers bandwidth at the same cost. This is good news, if only you are in areas where you can access butterfly or are within the Access Kenya network.
For many people who are in diaspora, this blog post may seem unfair given that SEACOM and the others have touted this as a new era for Kenyan internet users, but on the ground, the situation is different- try using the GPRS or 3G service offered by GSM companies, its slow and where it works, its fast and you pay through the nose because the costs are still high.
You may not understand why people are bitter about the providers yet Michael Joseph, the chair of TEAMS has already indicated that the costs are not coming down soon. But that is not the story we were hearing for the last two years; they were all saying how bandwidth will come down to $ 400 per MB.
This is not a problem of the the common people who may not understand technological jargon and all that other garbage that is camouflaged as working for the consumer but in essence does not, it is a concern for techies too.
Last week there was a bitter discussion on most Kenyan technology and policy mailing list, with people wondering whether the Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Information and Communication should be compelled to resign after it became clear that the cost and quality of connectivity was not improving.
You could tell from the discussions that these comments were by people who had endured bitter disappointment by Kenyan providers. They argued that the reductions were mainly targeted for the Media, that is likely to report anything without actually testing.
There was another group that argued that you can not blame the PS for the failing of the private sector and that the cables are home, where it was promised and that the issues of cost were merely details.
One thing that you can not dispute is that the Skunkworks mailing list, which had the most discussions is the best testbed; after all, it is composed mainly of techies, the guys who will tell you whether the bandwidth quality and cost has changed to the better.
So, when the techies say they are not happy with the status of the connectivity, who can dispute? The manager who does not know the difference between the bits and bytes per second?
For the Kenyans in diaspora, enjoying the best connectivity out there, you can continue saying how it has all improved but listen to the guys who actually man the pipes and are expected to make sure the connectivity is uninterrupted.
For the interested choir members, you can continue singing how the cost of bandwidth has come down, but ask the purported beneficiaries whether the benefits are accessible to a few or to all,