Internet service in Guyana still in the 'Ice Age'
Stabroek News
May 28, 2002

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Dear Editor,

In recent years, the number of internet users has grown dramatically as well as the number of Commercial Internet Service Providers (ISP's). I am sorry to say, however, that the internet service in Guyana is still in the 'Ice Age.' Not all computer users are internet users; to these persons I say you are saving yourself a whole lot of stress and heartache. Internet users in Guyana suffer very slow connections, frequent disconnects and connection 'black-outs' and everything else that could send a user wild.

I am 17 years old. Like most people my age, I have been to every computer class possible. Unlike most of us, I have been around computers my entire life. I am happy to say the level of computer training in Guyana is excellent and I will be able to finish my MCSE examinations very soon. I do not consider myself an IT expert, although people ask my advice about problems they encounter and about purchasing a computer and other such things.

Most home users and organizations have only one option for gaining access to the internet which is by means of a Dial-Up Connection. This is very poor considering the number of different options available in other countries that are identical in economic and technological structure as Guyana. Large organizations, such as the one where I work use Local Area Connections (LAN's) which are many times faster and more efficient but are expensive to upkeep.

For those who don't know, here's how it works: Internet service is acquired through an ISP who is in turn paid a fee. These ISP's allow users to dial, (using normal telephone services provided by GT&T), into their Servers which are directly connected to the Internet. This entails a one-time registration fee, setup charges (in some cases), charges for the time the user is connected, or monthly fees. Typically, total charges range from anywhere like G$10,000 to G$15,000 for registration and setup and an average monthly service charge of $6,000. Dial-Up Connections offer a maximum of 56000 bps (bytes per sec) 56kbs (A byte is a measure of data sent and received). 56kbs is way below the average connections speeds in South America and the Caribbean. To connect to the ISP, the user would be required to have a modem which comes standard in most computers or can be bought at computer stores. When using 56k modems, users should attain minimum connection speeds of 52000 bps (52k). The reason for degradation of the connection speed could be explained by a number of problems which reside in the modem of the user such as incorrect Init Strings or wrong chipsets, etc. I am not aware of Dial-Up User which attains speeds higher than 49000bps.

Since 1992 when I got my first computer, my family has changed ISP's twice. There are about 8 ISP's that I know of in Guyana. The services they provide are all the same, even if one has been out longer than another. It seems like another ISP opens every three months with the same service as the existing ones. The three computers in my house are on a home network thus enabling all three to use a single internet connection. But having all three on the same connection isn't enough for the needs of my family. I have three sisters attending UG. For this reason, my home has two different internet connections which connect to two different ISP's. My ISP's provide virtually the same connect speeds (45.2kbs and 46kbs respectively) the only difference being that one provides better customer care services than the other.

Why don't those people with the necessary resources provide a better service? Why not introduce another way for home users to connect? Why not use cable or ISDN? Is it that GT&T controls everything and the ISP's are only puppets? Is it that ISP's are the real culprits who don't want to upgrade services because service prices would drop? Is the Government doing anything about this? Is the Government doing anything about anything? Why doesn't the Government nationalize this service industry? This seems like a harsh approach but anything is better than what we have now.

On another note, I would like to address the issue of privacy of users of the internet in Guyana. Is any Government body or consumer association associated with these ISP's? Did you know that some ISP's keep a short history of each of their customer's browsing habits? What do they do with this information? Do they just delete it? Who is the Consumer Affairs Minister? At least put someone there to report what's going inside the walls of the ISP's?

And lastly, I would like to highlight the issue of copyright laws in Guyana, particularly with regards to software being sold in computer stores in Georgetown. I admit that of the scores of different pieces of software in my collection, 75% were illegally obtained or copied from a friend or were downloaded. I also agree that software makers such as Microsoft deserve payment for that special piece of software that they produced. For example, I downloaded three items of software which took me exactly two weeks using my so called 56k connection. If someone were to have bought these three software items in December of 2001 they would probably have paid US$500. By the end of 2001, several computer stores in Georgetown advertised and sold these same software items at prices ranging from G$4500-G$10000. These stores probably got them from the same place I got mine or just copied the original software and redistributed them. Aren't there copyright laws in Guyana? If any, wouldn't these laws have provisions for all products or whatever the case may be?

Yours faithfully,

K. Princee