j bosma on Wed, 19 Mar 1997 08:26:41 +0100 (MET)

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nettime: Sarajevo-Amsterdam-link

During the Wiretap 3.02 netradio workshop one of the visits
our group made was to Frank Tiggelaar. He and his collegue
Sjaak Schuurmans have been working on an internet connection
between the university of Sarajevo and the Vrije Universiteit
in Amsterdam. For the list of workshop participants please 
check the Wiretap report that is sent at the same time as this 

Frank Tiggelaars and Sjaak Schuurmans have established the only
public internet access to Sarajevo, connecting the VU with the
university of Sarajevo via the german Copernicus satelite. 
Unfortunetaly the Bosnian telephone company (called ptt, like in
dutch, in this conversation) does not want to cooperate with
extending the line any further. 

The following has been recorded during a talk that took place 
in Frank Tiggelaars appartment on the afternoon of the 20th of
Februari and has been edited insofar as to let it be pleasantly
readable. Only questions that changed the subject were left in.

The website where you can find more information about connections
mentioned in this interview is:

or of radio Zid: 

  Sjaak Schuurmans:
  We work for the VU (Free University) and we have been trying to get
  Sarajevo online. The bosnian ptt had a two megabit link to Geneva
  for the telephone connections, and we wanted to split up one channel
  and use 64 Kb of it to Geneva - and from their over ISDNİto Amsterdam.
  They officially agreed to do that, but they never cooperated. We 
  tried to get in touch with the right people for months and months, 
  which actually didn't work out. So we investigated other possibilities 
  and the best possible solution during the time of war would be to 
  install a direct V-sat connection between Amsterdam and Sarajevo. In 
  the meantime the war ended all of a sudden, but we continued with our     
  involvement and carried out the project with a new technology of having 
  this direct V-sat connection and we extended the bandwidth immediately 
  to 128 k. It's a point to point connection between the IPİ(INternet     
  Protocol-)network of the university of Sarajevo at the faculty of 
  technical engineering and our university.
  And its functioning appearantly, allthough the organisational part is
  very hard to get a grip on. We found out that, coming with a new 
  technology to Sarajevo, facing the fact that the city had been deprived 
  of information for four or five years, people were very rapidly 
  understanding that access to internet could mean having some kind of
  power. Especially the bosnian ptt were not very cooperative. They jumped 
  on the idea of having internet access, to be the provider, the only 
  provider. Ptt's in eastern europe tend to be monopolists. A problem with 
  the bosnian ptt was that they had no proper documentation on their own             
  infrastructure. Nobody knew where the cables were running. Somewhere 
  there were cables and still the infrastructure was pretty much ok, but 
  nobody knew where to make connections. But on the other hand with the 
  close links to the governement they claimed to be the monopolist for 
  internet connections. They still do. Unfortunately for them there was 
  one clever guy with the ptt allready more then a year ago who issued an
  official statement with a lot of stamps on it issueing the permission to 
  use the V-sat connection out of Sarajevo to Amsterdam. Talking to other 
  people of this ptt I am sure that they were pretty regretting the fact 
  that they ever issued such a statement. But now we allready have it and
  everything is in place and they see that it would be very difficult for 
  them to walk in and unscrew the dish, so they won't do that probably.
  They obstruct in other ways. Like taking six months for establishing
  dial-in lines. The centre is trying to spread connectivity through
  dial in lines. The capacity of the centre is not quite large enough to
  support the whole marketplace so to say. They need more telephone lines. 
  The request form for these telephonelines will of course be on the
  bottom of the whole pile of requestforms. There are eight lines now plus 
  a leaseline.
  The objective of the project were twofold. The primary objective was
  to connect the university of Sarajevo as the university itself, being a
  sister university. But we also had a secondary objective in the project
  and that would be to make internet access available to Sarajevo and
  to the whole region or whatever you want to call it. We agreed with our
  local dutch academic provider that we would forward any traffic from
  Bosnia, be it commercial, be it non-commercial. And one of the major
  points in the financing of the project would be that the people of
  Sarajevo would within the timeframe of two years become selfsustainable,
  so they had, as far as we are concerned, they had the space and the
  possibilities to even commercially make this connectivity available.

  Soros were and still are very cooperative. They financed about 25
  percent of the whole project and were trying to support our efforts
  to get the real paperwork done and get the organisational things
  done. I don't think that I can speak of behalf of Soros, but I think 
  they are a bit frustrated with the non-cooperation of the political
  bodies, even within the university.

  Frank Tiggelaar:
  It's problems in the university, but it's also the university having
  problems with the bureaucracy. Bosnian ptt is one of the largest
  sponsors of the Sarajevo university. They have to be careful with
  ptt in this project because the ptt is supporting a lot of other
  projects in the university. So it's not a matter of going to the ptt, 
  banging on the table and saying, I want eight lines.

  Andor Fabian : Do you have any contact with Zamir?
  Frank Tiggelaar:
  I spoke to Erik Bachman and there is talk now about Zamir joining
  the internet within Bosnia instead of taking the long route through
  Germany. There again there is the capacity problem. To my information 
  they handle about a gigabite of email every month.
  The average size of an email is 30 k. They have their own newsgroups
  and thats it. Which are very limited in size as well.

  Vuk Cosic:
  How about that avatar thing that we hear confusing information about?
  Frank Tiggelaar:
  Avatar is run by a bunch of americans. They made a nice cafe there.
  They claim to be an internetcafe because they had brought a Macintosh
  from the US. South of Ljubljana you can't find any service for
  Macintoshes, so when they hooked up their printer the wrong way, the 
  whole system blew, and after four months it was still blown. So there 
  is no internetcafe in Sarajevo.
  Soros have a mediacentre. That is open during office hours. There is
  also another internetcafe. Now whats the name of this guy, he was in
  Tjechoslowakia and in Italy, a guy from the UK. Morgan S. This cafe
  is located exactly opposite of the ministery of internal affairs in
  Bosnia. So we don't know exactly (laughter).
  The machines that I saw in his cafe were plain Intel things. Pentium
  or what. As far as I know there is no american involvement in this
  internetcafe that Morgan is running. He is using the uni-link.
  The only other internetlink from Bosnia to the west is the worldbank's
  own link. They have a satelitesystem to America, but it is limited to
  their own stuff and subcontractors.

  Vuk Cosic:
  But with this cafe you just sit down and pay for some time on the
  Sjaak Schuurmans:
  Thats another quaint problem. Morgan was having problems running
  through the bureaucracy and having all the paperwork done because a
  part of his cafe would be commercial, because he is selling beer, a
  part of his cafe would be non-commercial because he was providing
  information and access to the internet.
  As I was told it appeared that he would have to store the machines
  on the first floor because that would mean a separation between the
  part that would make profit and the part that would not make profit. 
  I say just give the beer for free.
  To get back to the main point. There are two hard problems in
  Sarajevo. The first problem is that they still have to make a 
  distinction between commercial and between lets say a organisation 
  that would at least financially sustain itself. If you want to make 
  money to give it to your shareholders that would be plain commercial, 
  but if you want to make money because you have to pay your own stuff, 
  housing etc., thats not commercial. They don't see that difference.
  The second thing is that with all institutions I've noticed that the
  internal informationstructure doesn't work. That means that people
  from the same institution tell you different stories and they don't 
  know from eachother what they are telling you. So any time you can 
  face the fact that you go to the same institution, happen to talk to 
  another face and completely having to renew any kind of procedure you 
  were allready into. And I hope that that will be done more effeciently 
  in lets say three hundred years from now.

  Drazen Pantic:
  Can I ask a simple question? There is that internetcentre, so if for
  instance some radio wants to have access who is in charge of granting
  that access?
  Sjaak Schuurmans:
  We have tried to set up an independent legal body who would actually
  control access to the internet and according to our regulations give
  it to anyone asking for it. However the university of Sarajevo did not
  cooperate to make this body real legal. It is still in the hands of
  the university itself. If you want to have access to the internet
  through this centre, you first would apply to one of the technicians 
  because the director is never there, he does not attend the phone or 
  read his email. To make one of the technicians aware of your problem 
  and to make this techinician go to the director who might or might not 
  contact you, and who will then as soon as you've got a real request 
  say he cannot decide anything without the consent of the board of the
  university. This consists of four of five people that are constantly 
  abroad, either in Brasil or in the US or Canada.. I think you have a 
  good chance that your request will just go down the drain unless you 
  are going to be real persistent and to take the phone every day, dial 
  the same number, put it in the memory of your phone, in 15 or 20 days 
  you might have a reaction

  Drazen Pantic:
  Some people and institutions still have access, does that mean they
  have all passed that procedure?
  Frank Tiggelaar:
  They have reached the maximum accounts and there are no new accounts
  Drazen Pantic:
  Could old accounts be revised? We all know that there are a lot of
  friends of friends of friends who have some accounts they use for
  Frank Tiggelaar:
  We are talking about two different things, the individual accounts
  for students have gone really good. They have a very big number of
  individual accounts now.
  I was reffering to institutional accounts with leased lines.
  Drazen Pantic:
  I just mean whatever access. I understand leaselines are problems
  there. For example Radio Zid does not need a leased line connection
  to start putting some for example audio material one the net.
  Physically they would prepare something on their server and then
  download it dial in there to a server in Sarajevo and then download
  to here at xs4all, it is not a big deal, they don't have to be 24
  hours a day on the internet. I suppose that would help to move
  something. This going in steps from time to time is very efficient.
  If they put some material on the net there will be additional
  pressure to get more. I have never seen any news cast or whatever
  audio material from there.
  Frank Tiggelaar:
  We've been running BHT (Bosnia Herzigovina Television) for over a
  year now in RealAudio four hours a day.

  Andreas Broeckman:
  Could you tell us about your work kind of remotely in Sarajevo and
  also about what you've experienced in the last three four weeks when
  you were down there, especially in relation to Radio Zid because we
  are kind of concerned that Nebojsa is not here.
  Frank Tiggelaar:
  We've been trying to get a RealAudio stream to the xs4all server and
  the first two weeks we just couldn't get it done. First there was a
  technical problem with the link, then we needed to find a 166 pentium
  machine running windows nt server 4.0 and a RealAudio encoder which
  is like looking for a needle in a haystack in Sarajevo.
  So we finally found the thing and it turns out that you can maintain
  a RealAudio stream during evening hours and during the weekend when 
  there's no organisations on the line.
  Jo van der Spek: Where is the RealAudio encoder?
  Frank Tiggelaar: I am not going to tell you.
  Andor Fabian: Why don't you just use an ordinary pentium or a 486 plus
  windows with an encoder?
  Frank Tiggelaar: Because we needed remote access with it. Its a 
  cascading thing going through three servers before we get to the link. 
  That was the problem.
  Well thats more or less what we did with Zid and the last day before
  I left I talked to the people at Radio Zid. They have the problem
  that their audience is disappearing from Sarajevo, their audience
  being the agegroup being between twenty and thirty years of age.
  So they have decided for themselves that they needed to go to the
  internet to keep contact with their audience worldwide.
  They have started a website in the United States now and they bring
  their news as printed matter. And they are trying to get out 5 or 6
  hours of special internet programming every week from lets say the
  beginning of march. All through their last few years they've been
  running on donations from their audience rather then commercials
  which are very limited in number and price. So they need to keep
  contact with their audience worldwide to get enough funds to
  continue the service.
  They had support from Press Now and they will be talking to Press
  Now again to get their own machines and do their own thing. Soros is
  very careful at the moment to support Zid because there's quite a 
  number of local radiostations in Sarajevo which can not be serviced 
  because of the lack of technical facilities.
  So if Soros would start to help one, the others would come and there's
  just not enough bandwidth to go round.

  Drazen Pantic: There is also the system of OBM or something, of 
  satelitelinks, so that they could somehow send audio stuff from there 
  through satelite.
  Frank Tiggelaar:
  You need a satelite channel for it which is even more expensive then
  internet access. There is the satelite broadcast of BHT which now
  also includes BIH Radio in one of the audio carriers. Thats two hours 
  a day now because they run out of money as well. They're getting these 
  two hours at very unfavorable times from ten till midnight european
  time. That time was donated by the european community on their Europe 
  by Satelite transponder. Since about six weeks this is going.
  Half way december they were kicked of the transponder they were on
  before. There they had six hours, but they could not pay the bill.
  Three weeks later they came back on Europe by Satelite.
  They are talking again with the european community because the
  Europe by Satelite has got eight audio channels of which the
  european community only uses four at the same time, so there may
  be a chance that they get one of the audio channels 24 hours a day
  and then broadcast Radio BIH on that one channel.
  Amila Omersoftic says that BHT is very much into different opinions
  on the airwaves in Bosnia. When you talk to the guys at Zid they say
  they are not against us but they do very little for us. So the
  situation is they coexist, they talk at times but there is very
  little cooperation.

  Jo van der Spek:
  Nebojsa told me last Sunday that they are actually being jammed 
  by a Serb orthodox station and he was saying that the federal
  governement was doing nothing about that.
  Frank:What can they do about a radiostation in Srpska?
  Jo: The least they could do is register a complaint with the UN.
  Frank: They will, it takes a couple of months in the bureaucracy and
  then it will go out, but everybody realises that a letter will have
  no effect so its no priority.
  Jo: You mentioned that BHT might put in the night hours information
  and missing persons and contacts between..
  Frank: We've been talking about that the past 6 months, ever since
  Dubrovko started his missing persons project in the US. The problem
  is to get the information from the west to Bosnia and the information
  that results from those publications back to the database in the US.
  So we are working on two lines now, one is a little webaccount in
  Sarajevo and the other one is trying to get BHT to do texttables
  during the hours they don't broadcast programs. But then again they 
  have a money problem because they have to keep the transmitter going.
  Vuk Cosic:
  I just remembered that american military line that enabled all the
  american soldiers down there to send email for christmas and stuff
  like this, useful and paradigm shifting, so I wonder..
  Frank Tiggelaar:
  Its no go area for us. Its fysically there, its being used all the
  time, but outsiders just don't get on it.
  Andor Fabian: Its the same with bridges and so on, what they use is 
  just for them and noone else.
  Frank Tiggelaar:
  The funny situation is that several high officers from the american
  army in Bosnia have accounts with Utic. Because thats easier accessable
  then their own system.

  Jo van der Spek:
  Lets get to the practical part of the workshop. Because when we
  realised that Zid would not be present here we decided to do
  whatever is possible to link them up somehow to the net into the 
  workshop. Could you just explain what is possible and what is needed 
  to make it happen?
  Frank Tiggelaar:
  What is needed is bandwidth what we have been promised for sunday.
  What we need is somebody on the Sarajevo side to keep the thing
  going which has also been promised. We should be ok on sunday to get 
  the Zid signal out of Sarajevo. We have arranged last night that the
  signal would be coming online at eleven in the morning and will stay 
  there until 18.00. During our last test we've had Zid announce there
  telephonenumber in Sarajevo on the internet live stream and they got 
  reactions from Australia, Norway and the USA. So it works. I don't 
  know what you have in mind for program contents from Zid.
  There is no computer at Zid. We pick up the signal from the airwaves
  somewhere in Sarajevo.


JB: The connection between Sarajevo and Amsterdam that day was a succes.
    Unfortunately the ISDN line between Amsterdam and Rotterdam (to the
    netcast of sunday the 23rd) was down. Zid could not participate.
    Because the bandwidth is not broad enough, plus the fact that the
    hours on satelite offered to Zid are unfavorable, there has been
    decided to archive the daily broadcast of Zid, which is a few hours 
    of news and general interest compilation in the bosnian language.
    This material can be retrieved from both url's given above.
    The server used is the one of the dutch internet provider xs4all.


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