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NGO Networks In Haiti Cause Problems For ISPs

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the outa-my-bandwidth dept.

The Internet 108

angry tapir sends in an article from GoodGear Guide that begins: "While the communications networks that aid groups set up quickly following the earthquake in Haiti were surely critical to rescue efforts, the new networks have had some negative effects on the local ISP community. More than a month after the earthquake devastated the island nation, local ISPs are starting to grumble about being left out of business opportunities and about how some of the temporary equipment — using spectrum without proper authorization — is interfering with their own expensive networks, causing a degradation of their services."

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108 comments

No good deed..... (2, Funny)

Dthief (1700318) | more than 4 years ago | (#31241702)

goes un-complained about

Re:No good deed..... (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#31241722)

Yes, yes. You paid good money for those spectrum licenses, I hear ya. Fat lot of good they'd do you if all your customers are dead, dying or diseased, eh? So just avoid playing the injured party and just suffer with the interference for another month while people migrate, mmmk? Mmmk.

Meaning of NGO (1)

kdawson (3715) (1344097) | more than 4 years ago | (#31244364)

By the way, NGO = Non-Governmental Organization

MOD PARENT UP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31244390)

Pertinent info!!

Disaster Capitalism, at Its Finest (1)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246910)

Witness the corporate theft of Haiti. Aided by the humanitarian NGO's, funded by "charitible" donations from the MegaBanks and agribusiness, etc.

The military of the US comes in and does the "muscle". Marines work for Monsanto and GoldmanSachs. They will shoot YOU on sight, if told.

This is how it's done boys.

Why Is The US Military Occupying Four Airports In Haiti?

Phyllis Bennis said in Huffington post that "the reality is, on the ground, U.S. military forces take charge, as the United Nations is pushed aside."

http://www.politicaltheatrics.net/2010/01/why-is-the-us-military-occupying-four-airports-in-haiti/ [politicaltheatrics.net]

US Troops Pouring; Haitians Fleeing, UN Rescuers "Going Home"

General Douglas Fraser, the head of US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), said Thursday that over 2,676 US troops were currently operating on the ground in Haiti to boost the still struggling aid effort in the aftermath of a killer quake. He said that number was expected to swell to 4,600 by the weekend, and that another 10,445 (!) were currently afloat aboard vessels offshore.

(This is roughy 33% of the US troop strength in Afghanistan)

http://www.politicaltheatrics.net/2010/01/us-troops-pouring-haitians-fleeing-un-rescuers-going-home/ [politicaltheatrics.net]

Haitians dying by the thousands as US escalates military intervention

With the Haitian catastrophe now in its 10th day, it is becoming increasingly clear that the response of the Obama administration and the Pentagon, which have made military occupation of the Caribbean nation its first objective, has deepened the immense suffering of millions of injured, homeless and hungry people.

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/jan2010/hait-j22.shtml [wsws.org]

Re:No good deed..... (2, Interesting)

BlueTrin (683373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242074)

I hear you, however this era of 'altruism' may feel like we are patronizing the Haitians. It is true that giving food and temporary shelters is great and will save some lifes, but you cannot just rebuild a country by doing this.

But, in order to rebuild a country, you need more than just throwing food at refugees. This [newsweek.com] article is interesting as it brings Katrina experience to help Haiti. It seems the best results happen when the locals are involved. There are many reports of this in Thailand after the tsunami.

There is nothing wrong with helping but helping without asking the opinion of the locals and keeping out of the loop will never give good results, it will leave the impression that you treat them like children and infantilize them. Now that the local ISPs have voiced their opinion, we should listen to their proposals and try to formulate a plan.

Re:No good deed..... (3, Insightful)

cHALiTO (101461) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242900)

like, for example, hire the local ISPs for connectivity. I'm sure they can use the business, and their employees families too.

Re:No good deed..... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31243920)

Oh god, no, never.The aid agencies will have their systems ready and tested, good to go. The local ISPs will not be tailored for their needs and plenty of man-hours would be lost in pointless busywork ironing out interoperability problems.

Re:No good deed..... (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245806)

So NGO's just get to violate local law whenever they find this appropriate ? They don't even have the small modicum of politeness of using military frequencies only ?

Can I play too ? I see very urgent needs. Very urgent indeed. Of course, you won't be able to receive the BBC radio anymore. Anywhere in the world. But it'd be really cool for me to play tetris with a south korean friend over a radio link.

Re:No good deed..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246118)

Legal claims are just that, claims. The claims get evaluated by real people in the end. When you claim that you have an urgent need to play tetris, people see that it's stupid. When NGOs claim that they needed to violate frequency allocations in the wake of a horrific event when there was no functioning government anyway... people are going to cut them some slack. When they continue to violate those local laws, people will say, "Hey could you please start using the right frequencies? But if you're still in the rough of it distributing food and medical aid, well, this is a low priority so don't worry about it."

That's how it works you retard.

Re:No good deed..... (2, Insightful)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243020)

A really good deed that would have helped the country out would be for the NGO's to hire local ISPs for their connection. Restarts the local economy while taking advantage of people who've already solved most of the same problems you're going to have.

Re:No good deed..... (2, Insightful)

segedunum (883035) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243570)

It's not exactly a good deed. The good deed would have been to help the existing infrastructure. I always get cynical about these disasters and the appeals that inevitably follow, because with all of that cash sloshing around it's a nice big target for unscrupulous people and organisations to walk in and start taking a chunk of the pie.

Personally, it's why I only give to local charities I know and then work outwards. That might seem harsh, but I want to know that my money has actually gone somewhere and with stuff like this I don't know if it would. I saw hotels getting rebuilt pretty quickly and ordinary people being left with nothing when it came to the tsunami in Asia. I simply see charities as businesses who get tax-free and other breaks.

I also hate the dependencies that charities seem to create in third-world countries that don't help them and destroy any local industries. Cynically, I can see it as nothing other than a ploy for charities to hang around for years collecting money without any real solution to the problem - because if there was a solution they wouldn't exist!

Re:No good deed..... (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246132)

Very good grasp of the situation. But we're living in the year 2000. If we had this attitude from 1950 and then consistently pushed it worldwide there might be significantly less of a third world.

But today "development aid" and direct aid is the ONLY contributor to so many economies, even for supposedly "modern" countries like Morocco, 50% is direct and indirect aid. By now it's so bad that if aid were to stop to a lot of countries, including even Morocco, they'd lose the ability to feed their own people.

So what are we going to do ? Obviously, evolution was right, the population of these countries, directly dependant on foreign aid, has exploded, necessitating a constant, exponential rise in the aid provided. Evolution says that this will keep rising exponentially until the aid fails, after which "selection" will take place. So what are we going to do ? Either we cut the help at some point, resulting in a massive, worldwide famine, and presumably more than a few wars. However, this could be controlled, and gradual, preventing the worst possible outcomes.

Or we wait until some disaster (like Obama's "fixing" of the economy) prevents us from helping them alltogether (has happened for a few smaller regions already, things involving logistical problems), and we see a worldwide, synchronized, total cessation of aid, resulting in something that could be a billion dead corpses.

How are these countries supposed to get out of this ? For their people, depending on foreign grain supplies is so much more successfull than any farm could ever hope to be. Depending on foreign aid gets you cell phones, tvs, computers and more. What farm produces cell phones ? For a total extreme case, consider palestina. 100% dependant on aid. Negligable internal economy. Has been that way for at least 50 years. Every step of the way someone cared from them, starting with mostly Israeli's, to mostly the UN today. Any house in Gaza has TV, power, telephone, and more than one cell phone, but no way to pay for them or do anything productive with them (often hardly any idea how they work in the first place). Depending totally on foreign "disaster aid" makes any local medicinal service look like russian roulette. Is it any surprise these countries are choosing dependancy ? The only real opposition to this is from cultural or religiously motivated "we don't want to be dependant" parties (parties that should probably in general be considered much more dangerous than extreme-right parties)

It's a nice sentiment, but it won't change anything. We're heading for the "big sudden sessation of aid in the future" case, and anyone even whispering that this might not be the best idea gets shouted down as some horrible racist ("look at all those poor children starving !").

Telling people "it's your own problem" is what makes people creative, and makes economies work. Necessity. It's also apparently very politically incorrect.

Haw (-1, Flamebait)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31241710)

The aid organizations could better help Haiti in the long term by hiring the local companies, one Haitian with close ties to the ISP community said. "In order to help rebuild the economy, it would be better if they purchased from the local providers," said Stéphane Bruno, a Haitian IT consultant who works closely with the ISPs.

Asking for handouts, asking for treatment of the symptoms rather than the illness. Hey, Haiti, you can be every bit as greedy and corrupt as the U.S. when you learn how to wipe your own asses. Until then, "do as we say, not as we do." And stop killing our ham radio operators, you goddamn savages.

"stop killing our ham radio operators" (1)

jeko (179919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31241764)

Link to incident you're talking about, please?

Re:"stop killing our ham radio operators" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31241860)

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=haiti+radio+operators+killed

Initial reports said 'killed' but follow up clarified that while some were badly wounded, no one was killed.

Re:"stop killing our ham radio operators" (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31241968)

here [slashdot.org]

Re:"stop killing our ham radio operators" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246424)

Link to incident you're talking about, please?

http://www.arrl.org/news/stories/2010/01/18/11293/

Re:Haw (3, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31241766)

There is a larger problem to this. Those same local ISP and service providers operate on a shoestring budget for the most part, and even in the USA operators will cut back on operating costs to keep a profit. The trouble this brings is that they are not equipped to fully integrated to emergency situations. Recent hurricanes and non-natural disasters in the USA led to regulations that are simply expensive to comply with in order to be compliant with state of emergency situations. It's expensive enough to pay for 4 hour response times to outages, but pay for 24-72 hour battery backup at every remote site, and longer at key sites and the cost is nearly unrecoverable.

When huge cash injections come for emergency aid, it DOES leave the businesses out of the loop. IMO, it's the fault of the government for not stating up front that local ISP/providers will eventually benefit from the cash and infrastructure injection as part of building future emergency response preparedness.

Yes, there are of course arguments on both sides, but I'm just saying they do have a real and rational point.

Re:Haw (0, Offtopic)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 4 years ago | (#31241846)

When did they ever ask for handouts? You're trolling, not to mention racist.

Re:Haw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31241904)

"In order to help rebuild the economy, it would be better if they purchased from the local providers,"

Se comprende amigo? Sounds to me like the ISPs are asking for a stimulus package!

Re:Haw (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31241908)

Oh yea, play the race card BITCH! I'll show you trolling, you cock-smoking, butter-ass shoving, cooked penis eating, FUCKHEAD!

Re:Haw (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242338)

You're trolling, not to mention racist.

I hate the anti-US-plug-in for no reason as much as the next guy, but US is not a race.

Re:Haw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31245502)

yes. it's a race to take over the world in a hurry before they are totally found out.

Re:Haw (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31241930)

And stop killing our ham radio operators, you goddamn savages.

One of the articles found by google said it was Dominican people who were attacked. Are you Dominican? Maybe US ham radio operators should try installing repeaters in Pakistan, Afganistan, Iraq and Iran and see how they get on.

And while I am at it, do we really need earth based repeaters in this day and age? Aren't there enough birds in the sky, especially over the Americas?

Re:Haw (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31242994)

Do we really need legs, in this day and age? Aren't there enough wheelchairs, especially in North America?

The earth-based repeater can be operated independently by the locals without reliance on the benevolence of/ability to pay money to/guarantee of friendly relations with the government of some offshore corporation. Similarly, the emergency mobile telephone infrastructure relies on the temporary benevolence of the Scandinavians, followed by global business as usual.

The popular Internet is under two decades old, the popular mobile phone network of similar age, yet people assume it will remain available and free (as in speech) to the end of time. This is daft. It is imperative that people retain the knowledge and the means to implement independent communications systems which do not require transnational corporation and government support and stability in order to continue existing.

Re:Haw (1)

Kizeh (71312) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243218)

Yes, yes we do. Satellite capacity is limited, and requires fairly expensive and advanced handsets. Good for important, long range communications. Putting up an FM / UHF repeater to serve a bunch of metropolitan two-way analog radios, or an HF antenna to serve long-range analog communications is simple, cheap, cost effective and with prepared hams a matter of hours, if not less. They've repeatedly proven to be useful after emergencies when no official communications capability has existed, or what exists has been overwhelmed.

Re:Haw (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31243574)

So Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran are also goddamn savages? Retard!

Re:Haw (1)

BlueTrin (683373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242110)

In any crisis, the worst can come out of people who are usually held in place by the law. Just look at what happened after Katrina [boingboing.net]

Re:Haw (0, Troll)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242118)

Isn't in the USA where you could be busted by the Sheriff/FBI for setting unauthorized radio systems (for example the pringles'antenna)? I do not know what is wrong about asking people (including NGO) to abide to the laws of the country; an emergency situation may justify breaking them but after that the aim should be to return to legality.

Also, as it is posted, using the country infrastructures where available will help the country get the infrastructure they need, or are the NGO going to leave their systems for use by the Haitian people?

I do not know how many people of the USA can still have this attitude of "we are doing this for your good, so I won't care at all if you are ok with it and don't you dare protest about it". One would tell that since Irak you could have learnt something...

Re:Haw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31245754)

You tool... Cause without the USA, they would have been all dead. We came to their aid, which was a waste of taxpayer money.

Re:Haw (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242334)

And stop killing our ham radio operators, you goddamn savages.

Hate to be responding to a troll, but do you really think that every one of 9 million people in Haiti was responsible for shooting at some Dominicans? Do you consider yourself a goddamned savage because some Americans commit crimes and murders too?

Re:Haw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31244310)

Personally speaking, as an American I was disgusted and ashamed by the behavior of certain people in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. I remember when there were reports of gang bangers shooting at the National Guard and police, shooting at helicopters delivering food aid, it was fucking retarded and when I saw that being reported in foreign newspapers, yeah, I felt ashamed for America and I felt that *we* have a lot of problems. I also felt ashamed when I saw a documentary about it later and they showed these poor people walk through the water from a low-lying neighborhood to an old army base that was on higher ground... and they got turned away back into the storm... that was a disgrace.

I think that's pretty normal. If Haitians don't feel ashamed at the behavior of other Haitians, why is that? They're a community and the world sees them as a group.

Damn it.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31241718)

If it weren't for the temporary networks interfering with my wireless I would have had first post

Flawed system. (4, Interesting)

migla (1099771) | more than 4 years ago | (#31241834)

I didn't rtfa, so I don't know if this is analogous to donating clothes to poor countries, but in that case, the free clothes have devastated local clothes industry. There's some fundamental flaw in the system if giving people free stuff is bad for them...

Re:Flawed system. (4, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31241874)

There's some fundamental flaw in the system if giving people free stuff is bad for them...

It creates dependency. My wife hand feeds our seven year old son. Now when he wants something done he goes to her and takes up her time. Additionally he doesn't learn how to do things himself.

Re:Flawed system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31241900)

Indeed. Maybe he should post on slashdot, too.

Re:Flawed system. (4, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31241916)

Tell that no-good bum to get a job.

Re:Flawed system. (1)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245786)

Ummm... He's seven. Make the kid independent already.

Re:Flawed system. (1)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246492)

I was hand fed as a child too. Mainly back hands but sometimes open palm.

Re:Flawed system. (1)

JorDan Clock (664877) | more than 4 years ago | (#31241884)

Fundamental flaw in the system? I didn't think people choosing free/really cheap products over more expensive products is necessarily a flaw in the system. If anything, it's similar to how sweat shops affect an industry: Really cheap labor and really cheap materials from one country being dumped into another country that produces the same good, but at higher costs.

If your industries can't compete with one product, don't whine about it. Make another product and sell it to them! Maybe they should put those free clothes on some cheap laborers and have them go back to making rip off (or legitimate, I'm not sure anymore.) Nike's and sports jerseys; Stuff American's pay crazy high prices for even though the material and labor costs are crazy low.

Re:Flawed system. (4, Insightful)

outsider007 (115534) | more than 4 years ago | (#31241888)

The aid groups are not 'donating internets' as a relief measure, they just need the networks to be up to run their operation.
The networks are temporary and it doesn't sound like the NGOs have a problem working with local ISPs so no big deal.
I guess the story is about greedy ISPs but hey, these guys have been through hell too and they have a right to want things to get back to normal.

Local system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31242392)

Sounds similar to the situation soon after the invasion of Iraq. The call for the use of local workers for example.

Re:Flawed system. (4, Insightful)

sn00ker (172521) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242520)

I guess the story is about greedy ISPs

What's greedy about it? A fundamental principle of international aid (and given that within the past six weeks I've been in the Solomon Islands, and on stand-by to go to Haiti, the Cook Islands and Tonga, to help with disaster relief I think I've got some clue on the topic) is that you try and spend aid money in the affected community. The people who live there and the businesses that operate there must remain viable once the relief effort is over, and that means keeping businesses alive until the locals are in a position to earn and spend money themselves.

Donating services is nice if the locals cannot immediately furnish your requirements, but as soon as there's local capability available for utilisation it is a failure of the aid system if that capability goes unused. It is not a good use of aid money to use donated services in place of local ones when carrying out relief work.

Re:Flawed system. (2, Informative)

Shinobi (19308) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242736)

Indeed. SIDA, the Swedish government organization handling aid etc has operated like that since the 70's. Instead of directly bringing children's teachers, they train adults to become teachers. Sanitation engineers are sent out as tutors, taking on apprentices sort of, that sort of thing.

SIDA has repeatedly come under fire however, both domestically and internationally, for their approach, especially from religiously influenced charities, for their method of not donating stuff directly, main accusation being that it's "not compassionate enough".

There are some exceptions, such as in critical emergencies, but that's common sense really. Some other exceptions are where the Swedish military is involved. For example, in Sierra Leone, the small swedish contingent there had 2 containerized water purification plants, and helped purify water for the local medical facilities etc, helping to build local report.

Re:Flawed system. (1, Flamebait)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243250)

SIDA has repeatedly come under fire however, both domestically and internationally, for their approach, especially from religiously influenced charities, for their method of not donating stuff directly, main accusation being that it's "not compassionate enough".

Give a man a fish, and you make him dependent on you for food. This is what organized religion has been up to since it was invented. You learn to go to them with all your problems, appropriate or not.

Re:Flawed system. (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#31244756)

Of course the fact that the idea of working with and training locals is something that was first introduced by religious organizations is completely irrelevant. Every religious relief organization that I know of that does long term work with the impoverished hires and trains locals to move their work forward.

Re:Flawed system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31242952)

What about when the local community is not able to offer the product/service you need? In this case, I really doubt that a Haitian ISP is set up to offer enough bandwidth to cater to all those NGOs and whatnot, particularly after they get their infrastructure all destroyed.

Re:Flawed system. (2, Insightful)

stdarg (456557) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243896)

What's greedy about it?

What's greedy about it is that there's a massive international relief effort going on and rather than being part of it the local ISPs want to profit from it. Look at the wording in the article, they feel left out of "business opportunities."

A fundamental principle of international aid (and given that within the past six weeks I've been in the Solomon Islands, and on stand-by to go to Haiti, the Cook Islands and Tonga, to help with disaster relief I think I've got some clue on the topic) is that you try and spend aid money in the affected community.

I understand that you know a lot about this, but that doesn't make it correct in every situation. International aid is pretty inefficient in places like Africa, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan where spending locally means a big chunk of the money disappears to corruption, bribery, "security," etc. That's why there's a call from many for organizations to donate goods and services and not just cash.

Sometimes spending locally makes economic sense (to the NGO). For instance, getting a local translator is cheaper than flying in a translator, that's obvious. In this case, the cost of setting up the NGO network has already been incurred since the local ISPs were not functioning soon enough after the earthquake, so from an economic perspective it doesn't make much sense to now start paying local ISPs.

From an aid perspective, you're right of course, it helps Haitians if we donate money to their ISPs (that's what this is since there's no economic motivation for doing it) but you need to show why it makes more sense to donate to their ISPs and not, say, to a restaurant whose kitchen needs to be refurnished.

The ISPs apparently have fully functional networks again, they obviously don't need much help. They're just missing out on some profits that wouldn't be there anyway without the earthquake. It's not like their customers are canceling accounts and switching over to the free NGO network.

But the restaurant needs money to reopen and be part of the community again. Which one does the most good for the limited aid money?

Re:Flawed system. (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31244396)

The ISPs apparently have fully functional networks again, they obviously don't need much help. They're just missing out on some profits that wouldn't be there anyway without the earthquake. It's not like their customers are canceling accounts and switching over to the free NGO network.

Except they don't have fully-functional networks again, and that is due in some part to interference from the unlicensed networks the NGOs established.

The NGOs, however, have caused another set of problems as well. Many began using their wireless and satellite equipment without getting approval to use the required frequencies. That's in part because the Haitian regulatory authority's office had collapsed. "Their ability to license people in 48 hours or so [after the quake] was nonexistent," said Zavazava. "So people came in and started switching on their equipment and operating."

That caused interference with local ISPs who are licensed to use the spectrum, thus degrading the service that they are offering to customers, Zavazava and Bruno said. It continues to be a problem.

"This is causing discomfort on the part of local operators who have invested quite a lot of money in getting licenses and buying the equipment they are using," Zavazava said.

Haiti's regulatory authority has issued a statement asking all visitors to indicate which frequencies they are using in an attempt to harmonize operations, but many have not stepped forward, Zavazava said.

I'm not saying the NGOs necessarily did anything WRONG, they came in, needed communications, and put up a series of networks so they could communicate. The local ISPs, by and large, survived the quake but couldn't come online fast enough for the NGOs and aid organizations to rely on them, so the organizations did what they had to do to feed people and get medical aid where it was needed. This is in no way a criticism of what the aid organizations HAD to do.

However, you're now looking at a situation where the ISP is ready to go back online, but they can't activate their network on their licensed frequencies because someone else has usurped them. For good reason, and with good intentions, but now it's preventing parts of the local economy from starting up again.

Food is more important than Internet access. Agreed. But at some point very soon a lot of the aid organizations have to allow the local ISPs to have their frequencies back so they can resume operations.

Re:Flawed system. (1)

stdarg (456557) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245038)

Except they don't have fully-functional networks again, and that is due in some part to interference from the unlicensed networks the NGOs established.

True, though I would argue the networks are fully functional just not in use due to interference. My point was they apparently haven't suffered massive infrastructure losses that are going to cost them money to repair. Other businesses have no doubt suffered massive losses and need help too. You never answered my question about why allocating aid to the ISPs is more worthy than allocating aid to businesses that obviously suffered more.

However, you're now looking at a situation where the ISP is ready to go back online, but they can't activate their network on their licensed frequencies because someone else has usurped them. For good reason, and with good intentions, but now it's preventing parts of the local economy from starting up again.

Well, the interference issues are real but I think you're massively overstating them. You know how radio works I'm sure. A wireless ISP is either going to have a few massive transmitters or many distributed low power transmitters. In either case, the interference from a few NGO network devices is only going to affect a small portion of the network.

A piece of evidence in defense of this is that if the interference were very widespread, that would have been highlighted a bit more in the article, rather than predominantly focusing on the ISPs feeling like they're missing out on revenue *from the NGOs* (not from their own customers who can't connect due to interference). Why do you suppose that is?

Re:Flawed system. (5, Insightful)

FishTankX (1539069) | more than 4 years ago | (#31241912)

This is the fundamental reason why we don't dump all of our uneaten food into starving countries. Doing so strongly devalues the local farmer's products and makes it difficult for them to buy seed and fertilizer for the next year.

It's extremely difficult to compete with free or very, very cheap. In the corporate world, if this is done it's called 'dumping'. In the world food aid world, it's only done if the demand for food far outstrips supplies and doing so would not impact food prices significantly.

Thus, why the west can live in food glut conditions while many africans are malnourished. Suddenly feeding them all for free would collapse the mainstay of their internal economy.

Tricky, isn't it?

Re:Flawed system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31242060)

Actually the US dumps food and people go hungry. That being said generations of land mismanagement and population growth make local agriculture unable to sustain local populations and people go hungry. All of our uneaten food really can't do all that much. Most food aid is bought to be used as food aid.

In much of Africa and the developing world Malthus was right.

Re:Flawed system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31242244)

Blimey, this redistribution of wealth is trickier than I thought.

Re:Flawed system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31243450)

I wonder how that applies to giving away free source code...

Re:Flawed system. (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243610)

Everyone **needs** food. As strange as it may sound to people here, computers and telecommunications really are a luxury and we did just fine without either for most of our history. Source code is only even directly useful to a relative handful of people who use computers and I really don't think that you can compare the two, at least not in any meaningful way.

Re:Flawed system. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31244872)

call shenanigans. Modern life without data access is extremely difficult. cellular network have the most penetration in the 3rd world. by jamming the cellular networks, the charities are screwing over the communications networks that people rely on.
contrary to popular belief, the developing world is not all starvation and huts

Re:Flawed system. (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245658)

There is a difference between "extremely difficult" (no phone) and "starving to death" (no food). And the reason cellular networks have the most penetration there is because its easier and cheaper to plop a cell tower than it is to wire the countryside with copper. I know its not all starvation and huts in the third world, but that's not the point. The point is, you're not going to die without a cell phone for a few days (ability to call 911 aside) whereas you are pretty much guaranteed death without food.

mod parent up (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243976)

I know that's considered blasphemy on /. But I think it's an excellent question. If giving food and other commodities away for free hurts other for-profit industries, I don't see why a much larger free software movement wouldn't disrupt the mainstream software industry in the same way. If OpenOffice, GIMP, et. al. ever rose to the same level (quality-wise and acceptance-wise) as Office and Photoshop, it's going to be a sad time for all those programmers and developers working at MS and Adobe who get handed a pink slip.

Re:mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31244024)

If giving food and other commodities away for free hurts other for-profit industries, I don't see why a much larger free software movement wouldn't disrupt the mainstream software industry in the same way.

Please learn what physical scarcity means, then get back to us, kthxbye.

Re:mod parent up (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#31244826)

Physical scarcity means that if I'm a software developer who gets put out of work by a bunch of FOSS idealists, then I'm going to have a scarcity of physical food in my fucking refrigerator.

Re:mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31245048)

Physical scarcity means that if I'm a software developer who gets put out of work by a bunch of FOSS idealists, then I'm going to have a scarcity of physical food in my fucking refrigerator.

OR you can evolve your marketability and skillset along with the evolving marketplace. Complaining about losing a job because of supposed "FOSS idealists" is no different than losing your job because someone better came along to fill the spot you're filling. You are not privileged to hold your job indefinitely because it's convenient for you or it puts food on your table. The world is not a static place. Evolve or die.

Re:mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246626)

Physical scarcity means that if I'm a software developer who gets put out of work by a bunch of FOSS idealists, then I'm going to have a scarcity of physical food in my fucking refrigerator.

Well, if you understood that most programmers were employed in regular industry (that is, outside of the software industry- that is, not by Adobe or Microsoft) you wouldn't be freaked out by even the partial success of the FOSS people.

Also, if you are good at what you do, you shouldn't worry about being unemployed.

On the other hand, it's fun to hate, right?

Re:Flawed system. (1)

stdarg (456557) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243984)

There's a huge difference between affecting a nation's food security (which can mean mass starvation if exports fluctuate) and affecting a nation's ISPs.

We did (and do) dump food. (2, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31244586)

This is the fundamental reason why we don't dump all of our uneaten food into starving countries. Doing so strongly devalues the local farmer's products and makes it difficult for them to buy seed and fertilizer for the next year.

We do dump food.

In the 80's, Regan re-instituted all the price controls and tariffs on sugar. Poorer countries which relied on the US for sugar sales suddenly found a giant chunk of their exports gone, and farmers switched to growing different crops.

What did we do then? Provided "assistance" food to those countries- the same crops that farmers were growing.

I'm not sure that we still "provide" food "assistance", but I know the sugar tariff remains (which protects around a thousand corporate sugar cane growers), as do hundreds of other tariffs that protect very small farming interests and hurt worldwide access to our markets.

Guess how High Fructose Corn Syrup became the predominant sweetener, by the way? Yep, the price controls from the 80's made it a much cheaper alternative because the government wasn't artificially propping up the price. Our national diet, fucked for the sake of ~1000 sugarcane farmers.

Re:We did (and do) dump food. (1)

chickenarise (1597941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245330)

Nice post, subsidies are pants.

Re:We did (and do) dump food. (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246150)

Reagan didn't set the price. However, the tariffs and quotas obviously had the same effect.

Re:Flawed system. (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246986)

This is the fundamental reason why we don't dump all of our uneaten food into starving countries.

This is Haiti. We do dump our uneaten food. That's what destroyed the Haitian farming industry, which is who such a large part of the population lives in Port au Prince instead of the countryside, which is why so many people died when the earthquake struck.

Re:Flawed system. (1)

thsths (31372) | more than 4 years ago | (#31241924)

> There's some fundamental flaw in the system if giving people free stuff is bad for them...

The flaw is that the free stuff will not flow forever. So it is important to maintain both commercially viable local systems, and a functioning local society. Both aspects have received way too little attention in Haiti, and that is the reason that most of the aid will fail in making a lasting impact.

Re:Flawed system. (1)

stdarg (456557) | more than 4 years ago | (#31244008)

The reasoning is sound, but applying it to this situation is flawed. If the NGOs provide free food, nobody will buy local food. The NGOs are not providing free internet access, they are *using* internet access. No Haitians are canceling their ISP accounts and switching over to the free network. So the ISPs are not being impacted at all by this, except for the issues with interference, which I'm sure will be sorted out in due time.

Re:Flawed system. (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242268)

in that case, the free clothes have devastated local clothes industry. There's some fundamental flaw in the system if giving people free stuff is bad for them...

Agreed. That's why I love having support and being able to sit on the couch all day long, every day. But for some reason, I'm barely strong enough to even stand. Oh well, who needs muscles anyway?

Re:Flawed system. (1)

sheph (955019) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243848)

Mod parent up. It's a very good point, and we have had the same problem here in the US with welfare. It's all well and good to give someone a hand and get them back on the feet, but when you care for them cradle to grave dictating every aspect of their lives I'd say that's more like slavery. Not saying that's what's happening in Haiti now but it could wind up that way if we don't establish a timeline and involve the locals in rebuilding their country.

Re:Flawed system. (1)

Kooty-Sentinel (1291050) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242402)

I think this is a little different than just giving out free clothes. It's more like someone coming into your clothing factory, using your machines which YOU paid for and manufacturing and giving away free clothes. Which hurts your business. Not saying their whining is right - I'm just saying I do get where they are coming from.

Re:Flawed system. (1)

sn00ker (172521) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242544)

Their "whining", as you put it, is exactly right. The aid organisations have millions of dollars to spend on rebuilding Haiti, and that money is, according to fundamental principles of humanitarian aid, best spent in the local community. That means spending it with local businesses to procure goods and services for use in the aid effort. That means, in this case, paying local ISPs for service. It's not whining at all, it's an observation that there's local capacity that's not being used, or, in the cases where it is being used it's being used without payment. Donating services to the aid effort at the outset is being a good citizen, but it very quickly becomes unfair for the aid organisations to use those services and continue to not pay. The money is there, it is meant to be used.

Re:Flawed system. (1)

stdarg (456557) | more than 4 years ago | (#31244032)

The NGOs are not taking away customers or resources from the ISPs so that analogy doesn't work. (Well, except for the interference issue, which is true but simply a result of the non-functioning Haitian government in the aftermath of the earthquake... I'm sure they will get their frequencies sorted out.)

It's more like this (after the interference issues are solved). Someone came in and set up their own clothing factory, but they are only providing clothing to their own workers. Those workers wouldn't even be there if it hadn't been for the earthquake, so the local clothing factory is not being harmed at all. Then the local factories whine about missing "business opportunities". It's pretty shameless.

No it isn't... (3, Interesting)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242652)

Nothing is being "donated to the country". At least regarding "the internets".

NGOs that are there to provide aid got their own satellite and wireless links because none of the local IPSs were operational at the moment. Nothing is being donated (to Haiti) - it is for their own operational and personal use.
Later, since Haitian internet backbone is operational, the backhaul bandwidth was donated (to the NGOs) by two local ISPs - AccessHaiti and MultiLink.

So in fact, Haitian companies are donating the bandwidth to NGOs who are donating the humanitarian aid and services to Haiti.

But, now that the local small ISPs are coming back online, they (local ISPs) find that the NGOs are quite happy with their current setup and don't really need the local wireless services - but are willing to switch, they just need more time.
They are kinda busy doing something a little more important at the moment.

Being practically the only game in town (read: the only paying customers) - local ISPs would really like to sell them their services.
But, on top of that, the wireless relays the NGOs have set up for themselves are drowning out the wireless signal of the local ISPs.

So, basically...
1 - Local ISP companies are providing the bandwidth to the relief workers for free. Which will probably change in the future.
2 - NGOs have their own equipment for the use and distributing of that bandwidth - and they are providing the humanitarian aid for free. They are willing to pay for the bandwidth but are asking for more time to switch to the local providers as they are rather busy at the moment.
3 - Local small ISPs would like to sell THEIR bandwidth (that they will buy from the ISPs mentioned under 1) to the NGOs - but they lack the capacity to do that as their wireless networks are being drowned out by the signal of the NGO's equipment.

So... it is not the case of donated food drowning out the local production.
But it is going to be, one way or the other, for a while at least. Because the local ISPs want it that way.
Cause it will take time for the local customers to be able to match the NGO's ability to buy the services of the local ISPs.
Who will then fix their prices to match the paying capabilities of the NGOs - NOT the local population.
So... in the long run, the locals will have to pay more for less longer - because NGOs can pay more and thereby they set the prices.

But in the LONGER run, when NGOs leave, locals will be left with a working ISP structure, and some money will flow into the community.
So, not quite like donating food. Or clothes.

Re:Flawed system. (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242912)

Donating clothes is bad, but in my experience, the most likely situation here is that cell phone operators fear that people get used to cheap service and they want their monopoly back.

Re:Flawed system. (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243080)

There's some fundamental flaw in the system if giving people free stuff is bad for them...

Would you be upset if (e.g.) Wal-Mart came into your town, opened a mega-market, and promptly put every mom and pop store out of business because they sell things cheaper? How do you think that any local industry can compete with "free"? (FWIW, free is a real benefit to the people getting the free stuff, but it does leave the local economy unable to provide for itself. Autarky isn't that important in developed countries, but when you live somewhere with civil unrest or unreliable utilities, where you might get cut off for a few months or a year, it starts to be a valuable thing.)

Re:Flawed system. (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243642)

They did that in the town where I grew up. Three other grocery stores went under within 6 months, and then once most of the competition was removed, the quality of the produce at the wal-mart went down because they didn't need to put a show on anymore. A bunch of small, independent shops of various sorts went under, too. I boycotted the new walmart for the first 4 years after it opened. I fucking hate that place. I'd rather drive farther and pay more than go to walmart if I can at all help it, but then I can usually afford to do so.

Re:Flawed system. (1)

ivoras (455934) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243314)

There's some fundamental flaw in the system if giving people free stuff is bad for them...

Yes, it's called "human nature" and by overwhelming agreement it's one of the worst things in the universe. Unfortunately, no two people agree on how to fix it...

Re:Flawed system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31244922)

The fact that comments starting with "I didn't rtfa" like this are modded interesting is just sad IMO and shows no respect at all for the people working in Haiti.
It's not giving free stuff to a poor country, its for the the aid groups, so they are able to set up programs like http://www.oxfam.org/en/emergencies/haiti-earthquake/cash-for-work-photo-gallery

Please think twice before just flushing such a comment in the wild.

Dead Aid (2, Insightful)

matushorvath (972424) | more than 4 years ago | (#31241882)

I read an interesting book on the subject, by an African woman with first hand experience with aid (Dambisa Moyo: Dead Aid - Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa). It explains with how sending aid to poor countries often causes more problems then it solves. If you give something for free, you ruin the part of economy that provided the same thing for money. Then when the aid stops, there are no local producers to replace it. The countries become dependent on aid.

Of course this does not apply to emergency situations like the one in Haiti, where there was no local producer to produce enough food, shelter, water... But if there are local ISPs capable of providing internet access, then the NGOs should definitely use them, and not compete with them by maintaining their own network. That would give work to the local people, which in turn helps a bit in re-establishing the Haitian economy.

Re:Dead Aid (2, Insightful)

EzInKy (115248) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242056)

If this is a give a fish/teach to fish case wouldn't the best thing for the Haitian people be to instruct them how to connect without ISPs? That way they would be free from both NGO dependence and protected from profiteers.

Re:Dead Aid (1)

argent (18001) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242746)

If this is a give a fish/teach to fish case wouldn't the best thing for the Haitian people be to instruct them how to connect without ISPs?

Through Magic Fiber Pixies perhaps?

Re:Dead Aid (1)

KlaymenDK (713149) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242818)

The Haitians can only rely on the NGO's instead of their ISP's while the NGO's are there, offering aid. So it's more a case of "give them fish for a while", which, if you think about it, is even more catastrophic because it undercuts the existing system with something that's only transient.

how to connect without ISPs?

If you have a method for this, you truly have struck gold! Even more so in light of ACTA and so on.

Re:Dead Aid (1)

EzInKy (115248) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243064)

Perhaps this [wikipedia.org] would be a decent start?

Re:Dead Aid (1)

KlaymenDK (713149) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243136)

True, but I can't see this being "taught" (to Haitians in particular and Internet users in general) until there is not only a functioning proof of concept, but it's a well-tested, wide-spread, common thing to do.

That said, that's exactly what I think we will have to do in the future if regulation continues on its current path.

Re:Dead Aid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31244958)

not enough bandwidth, uplink sucks, requires too much brains in the connected devices, COTS operating systems don't support it without lots of pain, Open source systems don't support it unless you use very specific software, not enough bandwidth, waste of electricity, generally ineffecient.

the only reason to go mesh is when you lack infrastructure. there is plenty of infrastructure in haiti.

Re:Dead Aid (1)

stdarg (456557) | more than 4 years ago | (#31244104)

I don't buy that argument. I mean, I buy it in the sense that I know it happens, but it's not necessary at all. Here's how it *should* work.

The US gives free food to Haiti, the Haitians are happy. The farmers are a bit worried -- how do they compete with free once the disaster is over?

The Haitian government recognizes this and says, don't worry farmers, you know how the US massively subsidizes their own farmers? Guess what, we're doing that too! The overall economic cost is equal since the people will be slowly taxed to the same level as what the subsidy costs, which means that over time, as you farmers become more efficient, we'll be able to just switch over to locally produced food with no economic impact.

That's what *should* happen. Instead, governments in these countries don't give a shit about food security so they never start a system like what the US has. That's the problem, not the free food! The real-world solution is the tough-love approach of just cutting off food aid, but it's a real shame because there's a perfectly acceptable alternate path that has the same end result (strong local food economy) but a much gentler approach.

Re:Dead Aid (1)

stdarg (456557) | more than 4 years ago | (#31244154)

Sorry, I was talking about your note on African aid, and extending it to a hypothetical example of food aid in Haiti. I'm not sure that was clear. I think the approach I outlined works in any country and any industry. It's basic protectionism and all it requires is the political will to make happen. African countries could do the same thing with e.g. pharmaceuticals if they wanted to.

Reminds me of the joke (1)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | more than 4 years ago | (#31241920)

That ends with "He had a hat!"

Capitalism, Baby! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31242184)

There is never a disaster big enough to stop capitalist exploitation.

Connecting Those Who Need IT Most (1)

weaselville (1234792) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242374)

Inveneo [inveneo.org] certainly does involve local service providers in their work. In fact, that is what they are all about. I recommend that you have a look at their interesting business model.

P.S. Their "How to Deploy Long-Distance WiFi in Haiti" [inveneo.org] is a very informative read for the radio geeks among us.

P.P.S. I am a former Inveneo employee.

Now all Haiti needs is 100,000 Mexican workers. (2, Insightful)

bezenek (958723) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242838)

Now we can ship 100,000 Mexican workers to Haiti to rebuild everything. They will earn US government-subsidized wages while the Haitians--who need the money/work--relax and watch!

Oh... Sorry... That was Katrina/New Orleans.

-Todd

What does NGO stand for??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31243408)

I hate articles that use abbreviations but don't define them first!
What the hell does NGO stand for?

Re:What does NGO stand for??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31244062)

Non-Governmental Organization.

Or you could have typed fewer letters than it took to complain about it and, you know, looked it up...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NGO [wikipedia.org]

as someone who actually has people down there... (2, Insightful)

pointbeing (701902) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243584)

...we showed up with a pair of satellite dishes but all our network connections are wired. Additionally, we didn't feel we could or should rely on local ISPs for communications since we need those communications to be reliable and secure and sending a buncha people down there with no way to talk across the pond to home station didn't seem like the smartest move I've heard of.

So now the ISPs want the NGOs to shut off all the expensive hardware folks shipped down there and use local resources?

In the interest of full disclosure we do work for a GO, just not the one in Haiti.

Re:as someone who actually has people down there.. (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31244272)

I think there are two factors at work.

First, of course, being that the local ISP wants aid organizations to use them because it's profitable. That part appears to be greedy, vying for profits from someone who is trying to help your country out.

Second, and just as important, is that the aid organization is preventing the ISP from engaging in their normal business, by using equipment that interferes with the ISP's assigned and licensed frequencies. This is not greed on the part of the ISP, but simply a desire to get their business back to normal. Granted food, water, and medical supplies are much higher up on the list than restoring local Internet access, and aid organizations need to be able to coordinate their efforts, but at some point the aid organizations have to allow local businesses to resume operations, and communications are a vital key to that.

I don't have an easy solution. If the aid organization only has equipment that stomps all over the local gear, the aid organization still needs communication. But then so do the locals.

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