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#1593: Thousands of Haitians back on line after dispute (fwd)


Thousands of Haitians back on line after dispute 
03:10 p.m Dec 27, 1999 Eastern By Jennifer Bauduy 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Thousands of Haitians were back
on-line on Monday after a three-month dispute between the Haitian
government and the impoverished Caribbean country's largest Internet
service provider. ``Everything is up and going. We are still running
some checks on the equipment,'' an official with Alpha Communications  
Network (ACN) told Reuters.  In late September, Haiti's
telecommunications regulator, the National Telecommunications Council
(Conatel), shut down ACN, which controlled 90 percent of the Internet
market in Haiti.   Conatel accused ACN of violating the state-run
monopoly of  Telecommunications d'Haiti (Teleco) by selling
international phone lines and international telephone cards. ACN denied
the  allegations.  The shutdown cut Internet communication for thousands
of  Haitians, including the state university, government offices,       
businesses and many foreign embassies.  An accord, mediated by the
Justice Minister Camille Leblanc, was reached late last week. ``The
accusations of fraud weighed very heavily on us, and we were determined
that this be brought to light. The main charge  against us of
international traffic has been dropped,'' Francois  Benoit, director
general of ACN, said after the agreement was reached.  ACN has been
clashing with Conatel ever since it pioneered Internet access in Haiti
three years ago. Teleco cut off ACN's   phone lines two years ago,
prompting the company to transfer to a wireless network, sidestepping
the telephone monopoly's  expensive, outmoded communications grid.      
The Internet has become a critical tool for many in Haiti, a  country
where there are only 65,000 telephone lines for a population of 7.5
million people, and 17,000 of the lines are  out-of-order at any one