Tag Archives: benintelecoms

Facts, lies, and conjecture: Benin Telecoms’ latest blow up

What we know (facts):

  • Our Internet connection has been out since last Friday.
  • So have those of all other WiMax clients.
  • Non-WiMax clients of Benin Telecoms have been having problems since Friday for certain types of downloads and have experienced unusual bandwidth shaping.
  • Connections from other ISPs sometimes work, and sometimes don’t. There is probably a pattern, but we don’t yet know it.
  • .bj domains are up and down and up and down (currently down).

What we’ve been told by Benin Telecoms employees (lies, truths, and half-truths):

  • Benin Telecoms isn’t recognizing WiMax customers’ passwords.
  • Employees of Benin Telecoms shared their passwords with friends so that said friends could use services for free.
  • Benin Telecoms employees are having password problems (including the only person there who can check account status).
  • Benin Telecoms has never seen a problem like this before (and is panicking).

What we think (100% conjecture):

  • Sharing passwords that give access to sensitive information is BAD BAD BAD.
  • Benin Telecoms has no idea how to fix this.
  • This seems to be a perfect storm of overselling bandwidth, poor security, password sharing, cheap equipment, and lack of expertise.

I’m currently using Moov’s USB modem (GPRS) to connect. It’s not bad for checking email, web stats, and occasional blogging, although I wouldn’t recommend it for anything heavy duty, as the connection’s quite unstable.

Hopefully the connection will be back next week, and we’ll be in the free and clear. Otherwise, Bertrand and I will be in the uncomfortable position of looking for a new ISP. For now, we’re using Moov, and hopping around Cotonou looking for cybercafés that work. An hour or two here, an hour or two there—it’s expensive, but it’s the only way to stay in business.

What a way to end the year, Benin Telecoms.

On Internet in Benin and the lack thereof

Last Thursday, we woke up to no Internet. At 8:00, we called Benin Telecoms to signal the problem. “We’ll send a team right away,” they said. “Are you sure you need to send a team out here? We just can’t log in, so the problem’s probably on your end.” “What could you possibly know about our servers? We’ll send a team over right away,” they responded.

At 10:30, still no team. Bertrand calls again. “Yeah, we can’t send anyone because we don’t have any spare cars. The director said that we can only transport equipment in official vehicles, and all of the teams are already out.” “But we were the first ones to call this morning!” Bertrand protested. “Yeah, well, not my problem. We’ll call you right before the team leaves for your house.” “What? I have a job, you know. I can’t wait around all day.” “Well, that’s not my problem either. The team will come when it comes.”

5:30pm. You guessed it. Still no connection, still no visit from Benin Telecoms.

Eventually their technicians stopped by, only to tell us that our recharge card had expired early.” Just pay another $50 for a new one,” they said. “But we’ve got 10 days left on this one!” “Yeah, we can’t help you.” We made enough noise that the techs spent all day Friday trying to credit our account. It didn’t work (of course it didn’t work!), and we ended buying a card and getting our connection back Friday evening.

Last night, some guys selling a shady satellite connection stopped by. I guess they’re used to talking to potential clients who know nothing about the Internet, because they were pretty much assholes. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not a dumb trophy wife, and I ask smart questions. They’ll get back to me, they said.

This morning? You guessed it. The connection’s out again.

Because we can’t get DSL in our neighborhood, there’s really only one alternative to Benin Telecoms. Unfortunately, they’re more expensive, and we had a really awful experience the last time we used them. We actually met with the Lebanese owners a few weeks ago. It was a lovely conversation and I appreciated the birds-eye view of the telecoms industry. They seemed like nice guys. However, all the nice guys in the world can’t get me enthusiastic about going back to an ISP where we were treated so terribly before. Every time I think about walking into their waiting room, my stomach clenches and I start to feel dizzy.

Yeah, that’s right. Theresa “Fuck this shit I CAN TAKE YOU” Carpenter Sondjo is afraid to walk into a Beninese ISP because they treated me so awfully the last time. What if that asshole is still there? What if he refuses to sign us up because we left them before? What if they call me a liar again? What if they lie about our contract again? What if they lie to my husband about what they promised us when he goes alone because I’m too upset to go back? What if we pay for a connection after they’ve promised to reimburse us the entire $200 installation fee if the connection sucks, and then tell us that they’ll be keeping $50 anyway? What if I end up crying in their lobby again?

Of course all that would never happen. The reality is that I’d just call up their Commercial Director and say, “Yo, we’re ready to try again.” And he’d be super nice and take care of all the details and no problem at all. But of course that doesn’t stop me from having completely irrational freakouts.

All this to say that for the moment we’re stuck with Benin Telecoms. And no connection. And that makes me sad.

I thought this post was published this morning but the connection must have conked out in the middle of the upload AND SO IT GOES.

West African IPs blocked again

For the past two days, a client has desperately been trying to get a hold of us. He said he couldn’t access his website. We checked, no problems on our end, and brushed him off.

He showed up this morning at 8:05am with his laptop and CDMA connection. “I’ll prove to you I’m not an idiot,” he says. He’s right. Our hosting provider has blocked his IP. Except that wireless connections in Benin don’t have individual IPs when connecting internationally. Thanks to the miracles of DCHP, all of any one ISP’s clients share an IP address.

Apparently, our webhost instituted several anti-spam measures last night, catching our West African clients in the cross-fire. A few frantic emails later, they’ve unblocked the IP in question, but I’m left wondering, what if this happens again?