Internet cost is rising in Iran, limiting people’s access to information

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The cost of Internet subscription in Iran has increased by up to 60%, limiting access to information and potentially harming millions of online businesses.

Internet service providers have recently increased the cost of their services by 60-100%. According to the Hamshahri newspaper of Tehran Municipality, just days after the broadband price hike, mobile operators dropped all six- and 12-month subscription plans and now only offer 90-day plans. more expensive.

The increase in the cost of subscription comes at a time when inflation is around 40% and food prices have risen more than 60% in one year. The budget of Iranians on fixed incomes is stretched and many have even reduced their food purchases.

Last summer, during his election campaign, President Ebrahim Raisi said his government would make broadband free for low-income families, but so far he has not delivered on his promise. Its telecommunications minister, Eisa Zarepour, promised on March 22 that adjustments to the cost of broadband would be made with consideration so as not to add pressure to the other pressures people were under due to high inflation.

Many also complain that despite higher costs, broadband speeds have also declined. Zarepour admitted on Monday that broadband speed in Iran is low due to lack of infrastructure development in recent years. Iran ranks 140-150 for broadband speed and 70-80 for mobile internet speed in the world, he said.

Most Iranians use mobile internet rather than broadband. According to the latest figures published by the governmentthere are 10.6 million broadband subscribers and 84.1 million mobile internet subscribers.

About 1.7 million small businesses, employing 7 to 8 million people, depend on e-commerce, which can decline if subscriptions or Internet usage decline.

Some Iranian media, such as the conservative Entekhab, have alleged that the rising cost of internet access may be an attempt to reduce people’s access to the internet. Entekhab called the hike the “silent implementation” of the Siyanat (Protection) Bill. The controversial billironically titled Legislation to Protect the Rights of Cyberspace Users, Critics Say, is intended to enforce internet restrictions and foreign social media platforms.

If passed, the legislation currently under review would require foreign and domestic social media networks and messaging apps to register with a regulatory and oversight body that would include representatives from intelligence organizations. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology would be responsible for blocking social networks or messaging apps that have not obtained approval.

Hardliners believe the bill should be passed by parliament. On April 8, Ahmad Alamolhoda, an incendiary senior cleric who is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative in Khorasan-e Razavi province, sharply criticized parliament for delaying approval of the controversial bill. “The enemy is at our throat [on social media] and you are constantly hanging out. What are you waiting for?” he said in his Friday prayer sermon.

Some of the bill’s supporters argue that Iran should emulate China in creating a national intranet. “The Chinese have a unique and innovative experience in this field, which we can take advantage of,” lawmaker Ali Yazdikhah said on January 18. China uses its “Great Firewall”, a fortified digital border, to manage access to information in and out of the country. through the Internet.

Iran has heavily restricted Internet access for the past 20 years. Many foreign and Iranian websites, including media websites, are already blocked in Iran, although controls are easily circumvented by VPNs (virtual private networks) and anti-filtering software. While Instagram is the only major unblocked social media platform in Iran, millions of Iranians use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WhatsApp.

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