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Another telecenter story. Or will the ending be different because it’s Google’s?

The world is awash in telecenter pilots.  I thought all the lessons that could be learned, have been learned.  Apparently not.  Google is bankrolling another pilot in Kenya, including a USD 700/month broadband bill.  So, for sustainability we’d need around 700 users spending a tad more than USD 2 per visit?  And that would be a little more than what they make in a month?  Never mind.

Google paid for the final design of the stations and is covering the monthly fees for satellite bandwidth. The company has also invested in O3b, a start-up that hopes to deploy a constellation of satellites over Africa by the end of next year.

“Building infrastructure is not necessarily Google’s objective, but if you look at all the areas that Google has gone into, in many cases it has been to fill a gap,” said Joseph Mucheru, who heads Google’s East Africa office. “The market should see the opportunity.”

Just how much opportunity there is remains unclear. Google is uncertain whether such satellite stations can pay for themselves in rural areas, given the cost of equipment and bandwidth. Communities may well benefit from the connection, but they do not all have the means to afford it.

Bandwidth fees for stations like the one in Entasopia could cost as much as $700 a month, though slower ones cost less, said Wayan Vota, a senior director at Inveneo, a nonprofit that works to disseminate Internet technology throughout Africa and the developing world. As these connections are introduced more widely, which is O3b’s goal, the price could fall, Mr. Vota said.

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