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Internet Access: Days of Waiting and Hoping for Connectivity

Harare, Zimbabwe – Having internet services in many homes remains a luxury, not a basic need. For some potential clients, the long wait seem...

Harare, Zimbabwe – Having internet services in many homes remains a luxury, not a basic need.

For some potential clients, the long wait seems like eternity, as the government-owned provider, TelOne, offering affordable broadband takes a long time to respond to applications.

However, the importation and distribution of 1 Mbps remains high compared to the heavily subsidised tariff. Frustrated, some applicants give up and resort to mobile data, which is more expensive.

By @Comic24Derick

Econet, a private internet provider charges around $14 for 8GB of data, valid for a month, while TelOne has a cheaper promotional $10 package for 60GB.

For any aspiring home applicant, the first step is visiting the offices to collect the relevant forms from the government-owned internet provider.

The clerk at the other side of the service desk looks dejected by the influx of people walking in for similar inquiries. After getting the application form, one is obliged to ask.

“How long does it take to get the internet installed?” Her response is hesitant, trying to shrug the question off. She has, however, responded to it on countless occasions. By now, she knows the appropriate answer.
Internet Access: Days of Waiting and Hoping for Connectivity (Image: 263)
 “I don’t know how long it will take for your internet to be installed,” she said. Probed further, she estimates that, “It might take some because we have a backlog. You have to wait for our call, then you can come and pay the installation fees,” obviously, avoiding going into detail.

With that indefinite response, the days of waiting and hoping have officially commenced. For many, the days become weeks. Weeks turn into months, and still nobody pitches at your home.

As the frustration builds, one returns to the office. “Nothing yet, we will call you when your application has been approved.” On the second trip, the response is still the same. Only, that the application tray is still piling up.

Back home, whenever a van from the parastatal passes by, one hopes that finally, the home fiber installers have come. Sadly, the technicians are attending to a fault nearby. Of late, faults have been on the rise, mainly due to aging, vandalism and stolen equipment.

In 2021, the company recorded US$1,5 million in lost revenue due to vandalism of their network.

“These losses stemmed from 333 network vandalism incidents being recorded during the year, translating to a 27% increase compared to prior year. The biggest loss to the Company from acts of vandalism has been the business lost due to voice and internet service disruptions,” TelOne said.

When a fault occurs, current users wait longer periods, sometimes without updates. “In Zimbabwe, you must have loads of patience when it comes to internet installation and connectivity,” revealed one dejected user.

After losing connectivity, some have to wait for ages for reconnection, with many unfulfilled promises that “we are attending to your problem.”

Generally, service delivery in Zimbabwe is declining across all sectors of the economy and getting an internet installation is a hassle for many. Compared to mobile data, using home internet is cheaper, and these can benefit the whole family for online lessons, research, and entertainment.

Although an estimated 9 million citizens have access to mobile internet, the demand for Internet Service Provider (ISP) is on the rise. TelOne, the government-owned entity which offers cheaper data packages, is however overwhelmed.

They are failing to satisfy the rising demand, resulting in huge backlogs. Zimbabweans are enduring the frustration of getting access to cheaper, reliable internet services. In doing so, they are being denied the basic right to communication, due to the inefficiency, mismanagement, and lack of infrastructure.

While Zimbabwe is pushing to be an upper middle-income economy by 2030, more needs to be done in the telecommunications industry to achieve this. Further, with limited internet access, the much-needed investment drive might be hampered.

Also, existing businesses are disadvantaged by these delays, leading to loss of business and revenue due to a lack of connectivity. This limits e-commerce business, online transactions online, resulting in loss of business.

Internet access in many homes remains a pipedream, resulting in some people ‘hacking’ passwords. The proposed feature, which is part narrative and investigative, seeks to understand the dilemma, misery, and cost to lives by the long wait for internet services in the country and how much it costs people and businesses.

The advent of COVID-19 further exposed the lack of preparedness of the internet service providers when more people applied for services to work from home. Desperate to get connected, some prospective clients are forced to pay bribes to technicians to get first preference.

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