Category: Middle East Published on Monday, 02 January 2012 08:43 Written by Cyrus Green
Efforts by Iranian authorities to roll out a “national internet” to replace the wider internet are said to be behind the noticeable decline in internet speed in recent weeks.
According to the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency or ISNA, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology has indicated that it is making efforts to improve the quality of internet service and to resolve the problems Iranian internet users were facing.
Nevertheless, many see the drop in internet speed as a precursor to an even tighter control over internet content and a subsequent increase in censorship and surveillance of dissidents.
A report by the Roozegar daily has cited telecommunications officials as saying that the reason for the reduction in internet speed was linked to the upcoming launch of a “Clean” or “National” internet, which could be as early as two weeks from now.
In February 2011, Reza Bagheri Asl, director of the Communication Ministry’s research institute, announced that with the launch of the so-called “National Internet,” 60% of Iran’s homes and businesses would be incorporated into the internal network and within two years, it would extend to the entire country.
The Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which lists Iran as an “enemy of the internet,” says the project shows “that the regime wants to impose total censorship on all sectors involved in disseminated information.”
On Sunday, Iran’s IT news agency quoted the country’s Communication and Information Technology Minister, Reza Taqipour Anvari, as saying that the new National Internet “will turn the prevailing darkness on the net into guidance and light.”
Iran continues to be among the world’s most sophisticated countries in online censorship. Access to tens of thousands of websites the authorities deem inappropriate is blocked and opposition websites such as the Green Voice of Freedom are the target of regular cyber attacks.
In summer 2011, the Dutch government announced that for more than five weeks, about 300,000 internet users in Iran had been spied on by one or several hackers who had reportedly been able to eavesdrop on communications sent via Gmail and other Google services. Experts suggested the attacks were aimed at helping the Iranian regime carry out surveillance of internet users.
During the unrest that followed Iran’s fraudulent 2009 presidential election, the authorities regularly disrupted communication by shutting down internet services as well as text messaging services.
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