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Telecoms in the Kingdom of Hippos

It's easy for us urban dwellers to forget that most of the Internet world doesn't live pining away for optical-driven packet performance or even broadband. Their more immediate needs are just getting predictable Internet connectivity, the sort that proved darned...

It's easy for us urban dwellers to forget that most of the Internet world doesn't live pining away for optical-driven packet performance or even broadband. Their more immediate needs are just getting predictable Internet connectivity, the sort that proved darned hard to find on my recent trip to St. Lucia, South Africa Even in this small, resort village, road warriors keep Internet Caf??'s in business. But getting decent Net access proved only slightly less disconcerting than finding one of the village's wild monkeys sitting on your hotel bed or crossing paths with a four-ton Hippo waddling across the street.

See, the local telecom infrastructure is so erratic that just getting consistent dial-up access is a novelty. DSL access is offered, but it's hardly reliable. Phone lines can be down for two weeks out of every month, said one manager at an Internet Caf?? that I visited.

It's here, in the places like the wetlands of St. Lucia, where satellite still wins hands down -- at least for the near term. Round trip times may take for ever. Internet access might slow to a crawl when the sky's overcast, but at least there's SOME access.

St. Lucia though isn't alone. Most ajor company has offices in locations where weeds seem to grow in the telecom cables. While vendors and pundits may hype a telecom future propelled by high-speed, wireless access fed by a dreamy-eyed optical core, St. Lucia and similar locations, form IT's biggest challenge. How well your provider can address those niggling offices is the real question.

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