Also on this site

For a list of Internet access points in Phnom Penh, see my Cambodia travel page.

On my Camera Obscura, there are links to lists of Internet access points in Southeast Asia and the world.

Related links

Cambodia's two Internet service providers, CamNet and Cogetel Online (formerly Telstra BigPond), have information on service availability in Cambodia.

Here is the most comprehensive site on your communications choices in Cambodia that you will ever find. Compares all forms of all internet providers, telephones etc, by price, plan, quality. A startling achievement.

Here I am quoted in E-mail is a real revolution (Salon magazine, March 15, 1999), by Kyra Dupont and Eric Pape.

For photos of CamNet's early days, see the CamNet section of Garry Ray's site. Garry was a technical consultant there.

Other articles

Connecting to Cambodia, by Jim Nash (Wired, September 1997)

So Khun Delivers Warning at Internet Launch by Debra Boyce and Khuy Sokhoeun (The Cambodia Daily, Wednesday, May 28, 1997).

High-tech in the hinterlands

Cambodia and the Internet

Since May of 1997, Cambodia has been on-line on the Internet. Gone are the days when messages had to be stored on a server in Phnom Penh and then forwarded over expensive long-distance telephone lines. Messages used to cost $0.15 per kilobyte, which is about 150 characters of text. Now there is an hourly charge for dial-up PPP, so unless the files are truly enormous (software downloads, for example), the cost to receive them in Cambodia is negligible.

Before the ISPs, subscribers to the commercial store-and-forward systems were responsible for the costs of both incoming and outgoing messages. The results weren't pretty. One friend sent me 400k of graphics, which cost me $160. She is still plagued by guilt. Another sent me a photo of his cute new baby son, which would have cost me $350 except for a serendipitous technical problem at the server which screwed it up and saved me.

New e-mail addresses in Cambodia

If you are looking for people who used to have addresses, use instead.
Former addresses are gone, since CCCnet folded at the end of 1997. Users have changed over to other systems.
Open Forum addresses ( still work.

Archives: The Internet Comes to Cambodia

Here are some of my articles about Cambodia's lengthy efforts to get on line. Most of them were first published in The Cambodia Daily.

Internet Provider Now On-Line - May 7, 1997
Letter: Internet Points Valid, Off Mark - April 2, 1997
Cambodia Poised to Link Up to Internet - April 1997
Japanese Initiative May Wire Phnom Penh for Free Internet - June 10, 1996
Sidebar: Change of Plan for Commercial Internet
Internet May Soon Come to Cambodia, But at What Price? - March 18, 1996
Cambodia Seeking Home on the Internet - March 4, 1996
Internet Link May Finally Connect Cambodia to the World - February 12, 1996

For other articles I've written about Cambodia, rifle through my articles file.
For other topics on Cambodia, go to my Cambodia room.

Internet Link May Finally Connect Cambodia to the World

By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily, February 12, 1996
Cambodia's long wait for a public connection to the Internet--the global computer network--may be coming to an end. Although there are limited electronic mail forwarding services here already, there is no direct Internet service. One year ago when Sprint, the US telecommunications giant, offered to set up the US side of a satellite link to Cambodia, it looked as if a connection would be up and running by July 1995.

But Koy Kim Sea, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC), says that the offer did not cover the expense of the Cambodia side of the link, and that the ministry also felt that to maintain the system, it would need the expertise that an outside company could bring.

Now the government has received four "expressions of interest" from potential licensed providers, and narrowed the field to two, said Koy Kim Sea on Friday. He expects that one of the two will be approved as the exclusive provider of Internet access here and that the system could be in operation as early as April.

The MPTC had sent invitations in mid-December, with a deadline of Jan 31, to three US firms, AT&T, MCI and Sprint, and Australia's Telstra, he said. Until the companies are notified of the final outcome, probably in two to three weeks, he would not say which two companies are on the short list.

The one-page MPTC invitation specified that "the form of the business will be subject to negotiation" and it does not specify how long any agreement would last. However, it says that staff should be recruited from within MPTC and that all universities in Cambodia should be served for free. Non-governmental organizations are not mentione d. "They would be in the group paying for the service, along with businesses," Koy Kim Sea said.

To connect the provider's computer to existing Internet computers outside of Cambodia, the MPTC, he said, is prepared to lease one of its 64K international circuits to the provider at approximately the same rate it charges other customers: $6,200 per month. A 64K circuit is a large international link that can serve many users at the same time.

Dr Peter Booth, a UN Development Program adviser to the MPTC recently explained why a provider must be licensed. Even if a provider could set up its own 64K connection to the outside, for example by satellite, only the MPTC is legally allowed to operate and bill for telecommunications services.

While neighboring Thailand has become one of the best-connected nations in Southeast Asia only five years after first getting connected, the only connections Cambodia has now are limited systems, such as Unilink and the non-profit Pactok, which do not offer live, two-way communications.

One of the biggest obstacles has been that there are few personal computers in Cambodia; the figure may be as low as 500 to 1,000, say some experts. That means the market is small and a commercial service could not expect large profits, at least not at first. In addition, the telephone system is unreliable.

The Internet is the worldwide network of computers. Internet host computers, or servers, are usually owned by universities, governments or large companies. The servers are connected to each other 24 hours a day through high-capacity phone lines. Individuals who have an account on a server can have their own computer call the server, establish a connection, and then communicate with any other Internet computer in the world. That means users can send electronic messages, or e-mail, anywhere almost instantly, find all kinds of information on other computers, and engage in organized discussions on almost any topic at any time.

For businesses, the Internet offers inexpensive and very fast communication, as well as a way to advertise and even sell products and services. For students the Internet offers a vast array of information limited only by one's skill and perseverance in searching. And for governments the Internet offers a way to reach out to the world to promote tourism and trade. At the same time, the difficulty of monitoring communication on the Internet has raised concerns about national security in some countries, and about morality in others.

back to list

Cambodia Seeking Home on the Internet

By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily, March 4, 1996
South Korean Professor Chon Kilnam visited Cambodia late last week in an effort to facilitate Cambodian participation in an Internet "exposition."

The "Internet 1996 World Exposition" is an effort by many countries and corporations to organize displays, or sites, on the Internet. Sites can be created by individuals, organizations and countries so people with Internet-connected computers can tour them throughout this year.

During his visit to Cambodia, which is not connected to the Internet, Chon met with officials including Foreign Minister Ung Huot and Undersecretary of State for Posts and Telecommunications Koy Kim Sea. At a Thursday meeting with government officials and others, Chon discussed possible technical assistance from Japan and Taiwan.

According to Koy Kim Sea, negotiations are underway for a privately operated Internet link here.

back to list

Internet May Soon Come to Cambodia, But at What Price?

By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily, March 18, 1996
The government is close to signing a deal to connect Cambodia to the Internet worldwide computer network, but several experts are concerned that the long-term, exclusive commercial contract could be the right move in the wrong direction.

Undersecretary of State for Posts and Telecommunications Koy Kim Sea said Friday that representatives of Sprint, a US telecommunications company, are coming to Cambodia for what will probably be the final stage of negotiations, and that Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun is already authorized by the Council of Ministers to ink the deal. If the talks fall through, however, the ministry could continue to negotiate with Sprint or turn to another company.

Although details of the deal are unavailable--and to a large extent undecided--Koy Kim Sea said some features of the contract are already set. The provider will have the exclusive right to charge customers for Internet access. Tariffs would be set by agreement between the provider and the ministry, which would get a cut of that approved rate.

The provider will also be required to lease their international lines from MPTC, for the standard rate of approximately $6,200 for a 64k line--a rate that provides "some benefit" to the government, said Koy Kim Sea. A line that size can connect dozens of subscribers to the outside world, though not all at the same time.

An Internet connection would move Cambodia out of the ranks of the least developed countries in terms of computer networking. "There is certainly potential," says Chris Maloy, the country manager of Telstra, which also submitted a proposal. "This is a vehicle to access resources that Cambodia can't access now."

But observers point to three potential problems: the exclusivity of the deal, the lack of assurance of non-commercial access and the length of the contract term.

Norbert Klein operates a store-and-forward electronic mail system--the oldest in the country--through the non-profit organization Open Forum for Cambodia.

"For the benefit of the country they should not make it a monopoly," Klein says. "Competition is the basis for the free market Cambodia is trying to develop."

Prof Chon Kilnam, former chair of the Asia-Pacific Networking Group, visited Cambodia last month and met with officials working to bring the Internet here. He says that since the Internet is an infrastructure project, it is better to have both commercial and non-commercial services, and that he is not aware of any country that has given an exclusive contract to one commercial provider.

But it's not just a question of how many providers there are, but who can get the service. In most countries where the Internet has taken hold, access was made easy for academics and non-profit organizations.

Here, the contract under negotiation would give free service only to universities. But Koy Kim Sea said that it was not yet determined how the free service would be measured or regulated. "We have to make it fair for them," he said, "so they can make a profit."

Henricus Cox, executive director of Sprint International, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times last month saying, "Soon, students at Phnom Penh University can have access to the same data US universities routinely use." But universities here may have difficulty making use of the offer.

"To give free service to somebody who is hardly in a position to use it does not mean much," Klein said, pointing to the lack of telephone connections and even knowledge of the Internet at the University of Phnom Penh. "It's not just universities, it's health services and researchers, environmental agencies, other academics. It's in the interest of the whole nation [to make the technology widely available]."

According to Koy Kim Sea, the contract will not prevent anyone else from setting up an Internet connection--as long as they do not charge for the use of it. For example, an aid agency could set up a computer and give free accounts to other agencies. However, the cost of doing so would approach $1 million.

Also yet to be decided is the length of the contract, which may run as long as ten years. Klein says it would be very difficult to predict the growth of the Internet even for the next five years. "If they do it this way," he said, "one company could dictate the direction of development for the next 30 years."

Sprint's representatives are expected to arrive this week.

back to list

Japanese Initiative May Wire Phnom Penh for Free Internet

By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily, June 10, 1996
In a former restaurant just north of Psar Tmei, the clicking of chopsticks could be replaced by the clicking of keyboards if Bill Herod sees his efforts succeed.

The former restaurant is now home to Lidee Khmer, an "association of Khmer professionals with advanced training from abroad." Representatives of a Japanese project called Asian Internet Interconnection Initiatives (AI3) arrive today to evaluate that site and others around town to decide whether to offer Cambodia a free satellite hook-up to the Internet.

If AI3 gives Cambodia the nod, in a few months local residents will be able to hop out of a cyclo, step into a computer room and explore a vast world of information stored on computers all over the planet: the Internet's World Wide Web. (The Internet is the network of computers all over the world hooked together 24 hours a day.)

Because any computer on the Internet can communicate with any other one at any time, the Web would allow a person using a computer here to read information set up on the other computers--thousands of times more information than is available in all of Cambodia's libraries put together.

"Indicators are positive," said Herod last week. "We have an understanding that things should go quickly." Herod, who works for the International Development Research Center of Canada, says Lidee Khmer rented the former restaurant as their headquarters partly to impress upon the AI3 delegation Cambodia's commitment to the project.

Other sites where Internet-linked computers are planned include the Council for Development of Cambodia, the Ministry of Tourism, and the University of Phnom Penh.

If they are sufficiently impressed, the Japanese group will make a proposal to fund parts of the system, including communications through a satellite and a dish to communicate with the satellite. Telephone wires from the dish to the computer sites--and the actual computers--would have to be supplied locally. DEAM Computing, a local business, has already donated five computers to Lidee Khmer.

Once the computers are connected, people could go to the public access sites and click their way around the world doing scientific, medical, or business research, for example, communicating with people with similar interests, or just exploring.

It's likely that the first site visitors will see on their screen will be the Internet 1996 World Exposition, a group of sites set up by nations and organizations in an international effort to use the World Wide Web to introduce people to the Internet.

Sidebar: Change of Plan for Commercial Internet

AI3 "is not an end run" around efforts to bring commercial Internet service to Cambodia, says Bill Herod. In fact, Koy Kim Sea, the undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC), who is coordinating the government's plans for profit-making Internet service, is also the chair of the ad hoc Internet committee that approved the AI3 public access initiative.

Koy Kim Sea said last Friday that earlier plans to give US telecom giant Sprint an exclusive multi-year contract have been dropped in favor of a plan to allow competition between providers. Several Internet experts and local agencies had criticized the plan for an exclusive contract, saying that doing so would keep prices high, restrict access to students, agencies and other non-commercial users and hamper the adoption of the new technology in Cambodia.

The MPTC may sign a deal with Sprint as early as next week, Koy Kim Sea said, and another provider--probably Australia's Telstra--may also sign a contract. Koy Kim Sea said that commercial providers could be operating by August or September, charging 50,000 riel per month for eight hours of access.

back to list

Cambodia Poised to Link Up to Internet

By Rich Garella, for Deutsche Presse Agentur (pre-edit) April 1997
PHNOM PENH - When the Khmer Rouge marched into Phnom Penh in 1975, Cambodia's communications networks had already been nearly destroyed by years of civil war and intense aerial bombing.

As the first tendrils of the Internet started to spread in the United States and Europe, the Khmer Rouge regime maintained only a few telegraph lines connecting Cambodia's provincial towns to the capital. A single radio link to China was for a time the only connection to the outside world.

Two decades later, Cambodia is still a communications basket case, with only 10,000 hard-wired telephones for its 10 million people--one of the lowest rates in the world.

But now an unusual partnership between the government and a Canadian development organization is poised to bring Cambodia up to date with a direct connection to the Internet at last.

Behind Phnom Penh's quaint colonial-era post office stands a grimy, run-down office building, where bundles of black cables covered with cobwebs hang in dimly lit corridors over cracked tile floors. It's the headquarters of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

On the second floor, in a renovated office, is the nerve center of CamNet, the product of Cambodia's unusual partnership. The computers and other equipment here have been paid for by the International Development Research Center of Canada (IDRC).

The brightly lit office is the first tangible result of a lengthy and sometimes bitter campaign to bring Internet servers to Cambodia.

Despite its unusual history, the first hurdle Cambodia faced was one that is common in the developing world: a near-total lack of awareness of what the Internet is.

In the West, universities and other institutions offering e-mail and other Internet services have been feeding Internet-savvy people into the general population for years.

In Cambodia, the national university's computer science department didn't even have a telephone line until mid-1996. Advocates, including Cambodians returning from overseas, had their work cut out for them selling officials on the possibilities the Internet might hold for tourism, commerce, education, health and more.

But after visiting conferences abroad and seeing local demonstrations of the Internet (through expensive international telephone calls), many officials are convinced. Several government ministries, including tourism and commerce, are looking into creating World Wide Web pages.

The other major sticking point has been the question of profits. Early government proposals to give an exclusive contract to a single commercial provider fueled suspicions that such a deal might end up serving only a few high-paying customers while padding the pockets of government officials.

Non-governmental organizations and foreign experts alike pointed out that access must be cheap and widely available in order to serve Cambodia's technology-starved students and under-funded local organizations, while increasing awareness of the Internet as rapidly as possible.

The CamNet project seems to have found a way to meet those needs while keeping costs for the cash-strapped government low.

After the digital line to Singapore is open, CamNet will provide free or subsidized access for educational purposes, said Bill Herod of the IDRC. But for his organization, part of the appeal of the project is that it will sell commercial accounts to the public as well. That commercial income, said Herod, is the key to making this a project that can sustain itself.

CamNet expects to hold its public unveiling in early May with World Wide Web access at a public site, and gradually offer more services, starting with e-mail. Meanwhile, the Australian telecoms company, Telstra is also starting an Internet link, which may be operating as early as June.

As he waits for the signal from Singapore to initiate the new era in Cambodian telecommunications, Moa Chakrya, the manager of Internet services for the ministry, keeps busy installing software and periodically testing the system by dialing in from his laptop in another room. Though he has never had an own Internet account of his own, Chakrya is excited about the prospect of managing Cambodia's first link-up.

"Cambodia is agricultural and small, but any country which is democratic needs information about changes in the world," said Chakrya. "It's our chance to make up for lost time, to get technical information our people need."

back to list

Letter: Internet Points Valid, Off Mark

Rich Garella in The Cambodia Daily, April 2, 1997
Sum Mean raised several legitimate points in his letter Tuesday which took issue with my article, "Cambodia Finally on Brink of Link to Internet" (March 28).

I am concerned, however, that readers who are unfamiliar with this new technology may have been misled, and might be discouraged from investigating it.

Cambodia does not yet have an Internet link. The services to which Sum Mean refers are "store-and-forward" systems. They transmit chunks of information such as e-mail from the actual Internet, over international telephone lines, to Cambodia.

For example, the "kh" address to which Sum Mean refers is at this point not a live Internet server. Rather it uses standard long distance telephone calls to transmit information to an Internet-linked computer in California. Open Forum must of course pay for that call.

Although such services are performing a valuable function-and may continue to do so-they are about as different from a real link as a book-of-the-month club is from the Library of Congress. This is not to diminish in any way the significant work of the dedicated people who have created them and made the most of a limited opportunity.

The Internet, on the other hand, allows users to communicate freely with the world through a "live" two-way connection. Not only does this allow access to the World Wide Web, file transfer, Usenet news groups, live chat sessions and more, but e-mail becomes nearly instant (and free to subscribers), and users can search out information for themselves. The overwhelming majority of people in Cambodia may have difficulty appreciating the difference, because they have never seen the real thing. Of course, technical problems are to be expected, and, as Sum Mean points out, pricing and access are fundamental concerns.

CamNet plans to offer Web access at a single point only initially, and will likely make Web access and other services available to subscribers through their own telephone lines as the facilities are tested. The article was edited so as to give the incorrect impression--unfortunately repeated by Sum Mean--that CamNet will offer Web access "only at a single point."

Richard Garella

Phnom Penh

back to list

Internet Provider Now On-Line

By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily, May 7, 1997
At 9:34 am on Tuesday a computer at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications became the first in Cambodia to have a full-time Internet connection by bouncing an electronic message off a counterpart in California.

The computer is operated by CamNet, a partnership between the ministry and the International Development Research Center , a Canadian aid organization. CamNet plans to sell Internet accounts, including e-mail, to the public while providing access to educational and other public-interest institutions.

CamNet's competition in the new market for full Internet services is Big Pond, a service operated by Telstra, the Australian telecommunications company. Telstra operates an Internet service in Australia under the same name, but Cambodia is Big Pond's first venture overseas.

A Telstra official said that Big Pond's server should go on-line Wednesday, connecting to a server in Australia. The target date for Big Pond to begin selling individual accounts is June 1.

Although CamNet staff were able to view pages on the Internet's World Wide Web within 20 minutes of the initial connection, further Internet services such as receiving e-mail and exploring the thousands of discussion groups known as Usenet will take longer to set up.

Moa Chakrya, MPTC's Internet manager, said that CamNet may be ready to sell accounts to the public as early as three weeks from now. Even before that, he added, a public-access center for viewing-or "surfing"-the World Wide Web should be open at the office of Lidee Khmer, on Street 53.

According to Telstra officials, Big Pond operates under a license that says that only it and CamNet are permitted to offer Internet services in Cambodia for five years.

Although the two services will compete directly for customers, they will have to cooperate in other areas. Telstra is under contract with the government to develop and operate international long-distance telephone services-including the full-time leased line used by CamNet.

Neither service has yet announced rates.

back to list

See also

Connecting to Cambodia, by Jim Nash (Wired, September 1997)
Operation Cambodia is the ultimate test of digital technology's power to transform by Jacques Leslie (Wired, November 1999)
Cambodian Connections on Pan-Asia Networking site

photo by DV2 go to top of this page

go to new site entrance

e-mail me your comments