While it’s no secret that trouble is aloof in the middle east, with no foreseeable end in sight, a new problem is surfacing as a result of the strife that is plaguing these countries. Some regions in the middle east, such as countries like Oman, have taken a strong stance against using VoIP services because of the hit taken on revenue against telecom a providers. Kuwait is another one the middle-eastern countries which has such a ban, forcing citizens to utilize traditional, mostly government owned communication services.
In Oman, communication is completely monopolized by the government owned Telco company Omantel. Citizens are not allowed to choose between service providers – a luxury taken for granted in the rest of free world. It may be nice to not have to deal with the customer service call centers – a weakness of the AT&T customer service model – as such calls may take up the better part of day. However, Oman enforces strict policies against regulating services which provide their people the ability to communicate freely, both as an attempt to gain as much revenue as possible as well as maintain regulation to limit freedom in order to safeguard the political structure. In spite of this monopoly, earlier this year, Oman has finally lifted the restriction to an extent; some VoIP services such as Google Talk, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, PalTalk and Viber are now allowed for public use.
Kuwait has always had a ban over VoIP services. Yet, many people are still using VoIP services, despite the ban. For example, many VoIP sites are blocked, like Skype. Some citizens of Kuwait claim that they are able to access the site to download such services while other others state they are unable to connect. Some have luck using these VoIP services that were installed either outside of the country or by good fortune – rarely are single individuals caught for using these services. Though the government forbids its use, they are not able to stop all accounts of VoIP usage.
The government recently enforced a policy that cut high speed internet prices to extremely low prices. Many VoIP centers located in the cities Abbassiya, Kheitan and Riggai have all closed up shop because of a drop in internet pricing. For the most part, these call centers would charge customers a small fee to make calls that would otherwise cost a substantial amount of money. These centers are also highly scrutinized by the government, and as such, suspected calling centers are raided by the police.
Internet service providers practice a form of network monitoring and are further aided by the police of Kuwait. When data usage surges in certain area, the police take action and bust the facility. As Kuwait has a large number of expatriates as well as many foreigners living within the country, the need to communicate internationally is a necessity for many families.
At some point, the ban will likely need to be lifted. It’s too taxing to send police on raids and arrest people who otherwise are not dangerous criminals. Perhaps taxing some services to a small extent after lifting the ban could prove beneficial to everyone.