INTERNET IN THE AMAZON: OFF THE AIR PERMANENTLY JUNE 12, 1995
Internet connectivity to the central Brazilian Amazon will be a thing of the
past when EMBRATEL, the Brazilian telephone monolith, cuts the satellite
link on June 12.
It is a question of money. The satellite link to the Amazon costs about
$15,000 per month and the Rede Nacional de Pesquisa ( Brazilian National
Research Network - the Brazilian Internet ) is balking at the expense. Not
to blame the RNP...they have done much with a very minimum of resources.
The Brazilian Amazon has had Internet connectivity since September 1994,
when two technicians, one Brazilian and one American ( Brazilian permanent
resident ), arrived and installed a point-of-presence at INPA.
INPA, The Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia ( National Institute
for Research of Amazonia ) is located in Manaus, Brazil, near the confluence
of the Amazon and Rio Negro rivers. Connectivity was established at first
with a nominal 9600 bps dedicated line from Belem.
This line gave an actual throughput of around 150 bps (sic). More often than
not, the link was so congested that it actually hung, rendering the line
useless for parts of the day. The Mean Time Between Failure of the line and
its associated modems was ~3 days. A failure meant 24-48 hours off the air.
The situation improved in January when a satellite dish was installed and a
nominal velocity of 64kbps was established with Brasilia. The link was the
first of its kind in Brazil...an experiment to see if Internet connectivity
could be supplied by a private satellite dish company (PRODEMGE) over a link
with an EMBRATEL satellite. The experiment was a great success. The new link
never fell, and supplied sufficient bandwidth for an Internet node that
could be taken seriously. The Internet community grew explosively among the
scientists, as it does all over the world.
I should add at this point, that this link was also the most costly per user
in the entire country. Most states outside the metropolitan areas in the
south SHARE a single 9600 bps line with other states, if they are lucky
enough to have connectivity at all. All the other Brazilian states are, not
unjustifiably, hopping mad that Amazonas received this special attention.
The experiment was to last four months. The four months ran out, and the
link was cut without warning, leaving Amazonia stranded for five days.
During these five days, great pressure was exerted by INPA scientists and by
scientists from other Amazonian research intitutions to re-establish the
link. The RNP partially capitulated and forked over the $15,000 for one more
month of connectivity.
That was May 12. There is no provision for another month's payment, neither
from INPA nor from the RNP. Hence, it is good-bye to the Amazonian Internet
on June 12, when the "CONNECTED" light blinks off for the last time.
The person writing this letter is the technician that installed and cares
for that Internet node. I am not a politician in any sense of the word. This
letter is a plea for responsible spokesmen in the international scientific
community to enter into contact with the appropriate parties here in Brazil
and on the international front to find a solution to this lamentable situation.
One possible stopgap would be for the World Bank or some other international
organization to arrange emergency funding to guarantee at least three more
months connectivity, while here in Brazil we work out a more permanent
To these responsible spokesmen, I should give a little insight into the
politics concerning the Internet in Brazil at the moment. The RNP is at this
moment in the middle of heated negotiations with EMBRATEL concerning the
commercialization of Internet access. The State of Amazonas contains less
than two percent of the population of the country. Hence, this problem with
the Amazonian Internet is on the back burner. There is a certain mistrust,
not unfounded, of foreigners meddling in the internal affairs of Brazil,
especially when the Amazon is concerned ( just the act of writing this
unauthorized letter may cost me my job ). Bear these things in mind when you
contact Brazilian entities.
Eric C. Anderson
Centro Regional - Amazonas
Rede Nacional de Pesquisa
anderson at cr-am.rnp.br (until June 12)
Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia
Alameda Cosme Ferreira 1756 - Aleixo
Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil