On a recent morning in May, utility workers pulled down masses of tangled black wires running above a busy street in Phnom Penh as part of a broad effort to clean-up the Cambodian capital’s sprawling fiber network.
Nearby, some residents and businesses saw their internet service cut for days as the cables came down, without replacements ready to go. Far from routine maintenance gone wrong, the episode speaks to major changes happening within Cambodia’s telecommunication sector.
After years of war, Phnom Penh was left with just 3,000 telephone lines in the 1990s. Today, Cambodians today enjoy some of the cheapest and fastest internet connections among its economic peers — made possible by a sprawling network of fiber set up almost entirely by private telecoms companies and internet service providers (ISPs) operating with almost no regulatory oversight.