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10/09/2004
Zambian Goose Chase
Still in Zambia but thought I'd say hello and share an anecdote.

After my arrival on Monday afternoon I spent Tuesday morning trying to help my friends here get internet access for their small humanist office. Apparently they had set up some sort of DSL or something that didn't need a phone line last spring but then lost it due to non-payment. When Regula was here in September she paid a company called Microlink for 2 months of night-time only dial-up but they neglected to tell her that they needed a phone line and she didn't think to ask. James was convinced that Microlink could get the phone line set up faster than if it were to be used for voice and that there would be no monthly or per-minute or per-call charges because of the connection with Microlink. That didn't sound right to me, but we decided to check it out.

First stop: Microlink. When we asked how long to set up a phone line, they of course said they have nothing to do with Zamtel. When we asked about monthly charges, they assured us that all internet usage is included and there will be no addtional charges (no mention of phone charges).

We then went to Zamtel to ask about monthly and usage charges and made the mistake of mentioned that this line would be used for internet. At that point they refused all further questions and referred us to another Zamtel office that handles internet service.

After a 20 minute walk or so, we found ourselves at ZamtelOnline, an internet service provider owned by Zamtel. They, of course, told us they have nothing to do with the phone charges, but they would be happy to help us with a dial-up service (phone line not included).

Twenty minutes to walk back and then we spoke with our new friend at Zamtel (the same woman that refused to answer questions above). We told her we had our internet situation all straightened out now and needed to know about monthly and usage charges for telephone-only. I was a bit surprised that this was not a standard question but after she consulted with somone in the back room, we eventully got our answers. K20,000/month and K100/minute (~K4800/US$1).

Since the standard internet cafe charges between K100 and K150 per minute, it clearly doesn't make sense to have dial-up service here. Oh well, Africa!