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French Version


State cuts off illegal internet connections reorganization desperately needed - The Daily Star

Telecommunications Ministry encourages people to subscribe to legal internet providers and abandon cable operators.

The Telecommunications Ministry is trying to reorganize internet services here, following the shutdown of a number of illegal cable internet providers two days ago. A statement issued by cable internet providers who operate without a license claimed Wednesday that the ministry's decision will affect 2,000 people working in the field. It added that there are 400 cable internet providers supplying connections for 150,000 subscribers.

The statement said the illegal providers were willing to pay reasonable fees to the government provided that they are allowed to keep operating. But a source at the ministry said that the decision to sever the connections is final. "We have sent letters to the internet providers to stop allowing the illegal cable operators from using their networks," the source said. He added that the internet providers have also been warned that their licenses will be revoked if they continued cooperating with the illegitimate cable providers.

Cable internet providers offer subscribers 24-hour access to the internet for just $35-$40 a month. "The ministry took this decision to encourage individuals to subscribe to the legal internet providers," said the head of the Professional Computer Association, Jalal Fawaz. He added that Telecommunications Minister Jean-Louis Qordahi will cut the cost of a legal telephone connection in March or April of this year.
According to the new plan, internet users will pay far less for connecting to their phones than they did in the past. The ministry will offer different packages to the internet users, ranging from LL19,000 for 25 hours of use to LL396,000 for 300 hours use. Fawaz said Qordahi may even reduce rates further if the need arises.

Internet users complain that the high cost of telephone lines has discouraged subscriptions with legal internet providers. There are 80,000 subscribers using telephone lines, compared to more than 100,000 subscribers using the illegal cable connection. "The cable operators have been using the networks of some the legal internet providers for the past three years in a return for big fees," said the general manager of Cyberia, Bassam Jaber.

He added that his company refused to let the cable operators use its network. "We decided to stay clean. I don't think its right to let the cable providers break the law and make lot of money at the same time," Jaber said. He added that the cable operators have deprived the ministry of a lot of money. "I fully support the minister's decision, because the internet will never grow if we let the cable operators work in this manner," he said.

The general manager of internet provider Internet Data Management, Maroun Chammas, said that his company stopped cooperating with the cable providers: "We want to count on our legitimate operations."

He expressed hope that the number of subscribers will rise in the near future after the government shut down of illegal cable operators. But one of the cable providers said that the ministry's decision will have a devastating effect on many people. "Even the new rates provided by the ministry are still very expensive. The subscribers prefer to connect to a cheaper network like ours," the provider said.


Beirut 27-01-2003
Osama Habib
The Daily Star



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