I remember years ago attending an event alongside other staff from Fantsuam Foundation when many organisations including tertiary education institutions were given grants from the American Embassy. Fantsuam used the money to purchase a VSAT. Even at that time it was realised that access to the internet meant access to knowledge and that poorer and more remote communities should not be excluded from that access. VSAT means 'a very small aperture terminal' to receive internet access, and in Fantsuam's case this meant access in a small rural location. Over the years internet access has become ever more important to gain knowledege, conduct business and to communicate worldwide, but for a rural community in Nigeria the costs for such an essentail service can be prohibitive.
Kafanchan Broadband Consortium
John from Fantsuam has been working with other local organisations to try and work together to bring down these costs. John writes that Fantsuam Foundation is leading the Kafanchan Broadband consortium which comprises eight rural based education and faith based institutions to negotiate for cheaper broadband access for the Kafanchan area. Up till now Fantsuam has relied on its VSAT for access but this comes at a high price which is not sustainable for any of the partnering institutions. The alternative is to use an underground cable which has already been laid as far as Kafanchan but needs to be extended as far as the tower at Fantsuam Foundation. Fantsuam could then provide internet access from its tower to the eight other partnership organsations. This initiative of forming consortia has been developed by the Nigerian ICT forum who have been responsible for laying the cable so far. They have also been able to negotiate a more favourable price with an Internet Service Provider due to the size of their organisation.
The challenge for Fantsuam now is to raise its own share of the capital cost plus the recurrent costs every twelve months - a total of about US$16,000 which has to be paid up-front. Thereafter the annual cost will be US$13,200 which can be paid in two installments. Fantsuam is confident that it has sufficiently built up its business as a rural, local ISP to have a big enough base of subscribers to raise the annual cost. These subscribers include cybercafes, private individuals, small businesses, local hospitals and banks. However the initial outlay on the capital cost to extend the cable is the first challenge to be met.