Friday, September 21, 2007

Internet at Namwianga

Before coming here, I knew the Gregersens had Internet because they posted their blog regularly. I also knew they had a monthly bandwidth budget, so I was expecting there to be limitations.

It turns out that there are a number of internet solutions here, all with limitations (of course). In their front yard they have a big CopperNet dish that's about twice the size of the Hughesnet disk that I have on the top of my RV, but their satellite connection has about the same speed as Hughesnet in prime time.

Other houses on campus had a Zamtel solution. This was basically Internet over cell phone. A CDMA USB modem was connected at the house and an external antenna was installed on the roof. The computer, typically a Windows laptop, would connect like dialup. The home I visited last night couldn't connect their new Vista machine because it didn't have the necessary driver, so it was relegated to playing music while the XP laptop was the only one connected.

Harding University has a number of their students here, taking a semester or so of classes in Zambia, getting experience living in this culture. Harding had installed a Big Dish, with a wireless transmitter that would cover the whole campus. It had just gone on-line a week or so ago. It ran great. People were starting to disconnect their individual solutions in favor of this campus-wide network. The Gregersen's had turned off their dish.

But then, this is Africa. the Big Dish (I can't remember the brand) failed after working one week. Spare parts have to come from the UK or the US, and that means being delayed getting through customs. CopperNet was turned back on and I helped one of the other houses get their Zamtel solution distributed via shared Internet on a laptop so all the Harding students could get their email easier than camping out on the Gregerson's veranda, or going into Kalomo to use the Internet cafe.

Unfortunately, with email came the notice that one of the student's father had just died and Skype was called into play to make family connections and arrange for an emergency flight home.

All in all, the Gregersen's monthly bandwidth budget is coming close to being exhausted in just one week. And the spare parts aren't here yet.

No comments: