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At the 4th Online session of the ACP IGCBP11 Africa CE held on 30th March 2011 participants discussed Internet exchange points (IXP) in African countries.
IXP are being established to keep local traffic within the country and therefore minimizing the traffic that utilizes international link. This effectively reduces the cost to ISPs which in turn should reduce the cost and speed of internet access to end users.
Participants shared that in countries such as Tanzania, there was a national the Tanzania IXP (TIXP) as well as IXPs in towns such as Arusha which has the Arusha IXP (AIXP,) which connects ISPs in Arusha and eventually to the TIXP. In Kenya, the Kenya IXP (KIXP) keeps national traffic within the country. On the other hand countries, such as Ethiopia have one company providing (internet service, mobile network service, fixed line telephone service).
Participants discussed the classification of internet services as a public good or essential facility or that better services would be efficiently delivered by a single firm rather multiple companies. In the discussion participants argued that it was important to qualify "better service" as there were no alternative services to compare with those provided by the public monopoly. In addition ‘cheaper’ did not necessary mean ‘better’. The theory that internet access are public good support internet service provision by a public monopoly – established by government legislation or private sector monopoly – which result from the global trend in mergers and acquisitions.
Though services may be cheaper if delivered by either of the two types of monopolies, a ‘vicious cycle’ is created as cheaper services do not translate to better quality as these firms tend to be complacent. Participants therefore argued that competition and diversity in the internet access services provides consumers with choice based on the metrics of availability, cost and speed.
In a country with multiple ISPs interconnected through IXP infrastructure improves Quality of Services (QoS) and access speeds due to reduction of latency and encourages in-country content hosting. Additionally the involvement of different stakeholders in an IXP means that interests of many are taken into consideration.
Participants discussed the question of implementation of IXPs using the PPPs as IXPs are considered critical infrastructure. PPPs take advantage of the strength of the private and public/government sector. Though governments lack good technical and project management skills they have access to finances. However it was important to define the roles of both governments and private sector.
I recently explored this issue in relation to the Caribbean region and turned it into a blog which is posted at http://www.commonwealthigf.org/blog/bringing-rapunzel-paleface-and-...
I hope you find it interesting.