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September 14, 2009

Pigeon races broadband and wins

Posted: 02:35 PM ET

A fun bit of news has been flying around the Web today and over the weekend: A carrier pigeon beat the Internet in a race to move 4 GB of data between two towns in South Africa.

Pigeons being released in Jakarta, Indonesia.

A pigeon named Winston carried a thumb drive with the data 60 miles in about 2 hours, the BBC reports. Meanwhile, only 4 percent of the data was able to travel over the Internet during the same timeframe.

The race was set up by an IT company sick of slow download times in South Africa. The pigeon flew between two of the company's offices.

The country ranks 87th on the International Telecommunication Union's list of countries with the best Internet and communication technologies. That puts South Africa behind Albania, Iran, Palestine, Peru and China, for example. The U.S. ranks 17th on the 2007 list. Sweden and South Korea take the top two slots.

Unlimited Group set up the race. Kevin Rolfe, of that IT firm, told the UK's Daily Mail it's still a struggle to use the Internet in South Africa. "It's fine for emails and correspondence, but we need to transfer a lot of data from office to another and find it often lets us down," he told the paper.

Telkom, a large Internet provider in South Africa, told the BBC it doesn't take responsibility for the fact that the Internet lost a race to a bird.

Undersea broadband cables are joining Africa to networks on other continents, and there's hope those connections will lead to faster Internet experiences.

As for Winston, the popular bird has a Web site, Twitter feed and Facebook fan page.

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Franko   September 14th, 2009 3:40 pm ET

A pigeon could carry, at least two 32 gigabyte flash memories
A sustainable and renewable way to save the Planet


Warren   September 15th, 2009 1:19 am ET

It is Telkom after all who caused South Africa to have such a terrible Internet presence with its Iron fisted monopoly which it has held over the country up until recently. High prices are still a real problem but are slowly coming down as new undersea cables connect us to the rest of the world. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to Winston for bringing this problem to the worlds eyes & maybe improvements will happen faster now.


Christopher   September 15th, 2009 1:43 am ET

Ironicallly, it took ten minutes to load this article. Probably because everybody and their brother is trying to see this.


Chandra   September 15th, 2009 4:44 pm ET

"Never underestimate the
bandwidth of a truck full of tapes hurling down the highway" said Tannenbaum ....in this case a pigeon flying overhead ­čÖé


Chris   September 16th, 2009 2:01 pm ET

This obviously wasn't a fiber optic connection. Then again its Africa...so who knows what they are using. I know it doesn't take that long to download 4gigs on my connection.


Chris   September 17th, 2009 8:31 pm ET

Wow, thats the best article i've ever read. I didn't know South Africa's internet was THAT slow up untill now. I feel bad for them ­čÖü . Thanks to Winston it should get much better soon, GO WINSTON!


Homer   September 18th, 2009 10:38 pm ET

Well, of course it wasn't fibre Chris, that is Telkom, the world's worst telecom company in terms of attitude, skill and resources.

When I lived there and was a FidoNet dial up BBS regional coordinator before the internet was widely available, I had one of the highest speed modems ahead of most other people. I was one of the first to get a US Robotics Sportster 56k modem, one of the first before that to get a US Robotocs 14.4k Courier HST. When we had line problems and called to complain, the standard response was "Telkom does not guarantee or support anything faster than 2400 baud". That attitude has not changed, and in fact has go worse as they have lost most of the original staff that actually had a few skills. I called in at times with line noise so bad, if I disconnected the modem and conected a standard (Telkom provided and approved) phone handset, that I could hear constant hissing and crackling. he response was that the line was just fine, it had tested ok, and the problem must be my modem.

Now years later, internet is freely available, and the monopolistic could-care-less morons provide equally bad internet service. They have situations like my sister who called "tech support" to complain that she was unable to download any email because the system kept teling her that her mailbox was too full. The incompetent support person told her to delete some emails then she would be able to download her email. She kept trying to convince him she had plenty of disk space on her computer, their servers were teling her she had no space (quota) available, and that she was unable to delete any mails as long as she could not download them. He then asked if she had anti-virus software running, and asked her to uninstall it as that would solve the problem.

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