Thu 02 Apr 2020

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Gradual return of internet in Syria’s Daraa: Electricity hampers continuation of internet coverage 

Installing internet cables in Daraa - (Horan Villages Facebook page)

Installing internet cables in Daraa - (Horan Villages Facebook page)

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The Syrian regime attempts to restore the internet connection and communication lines in the province of Daraa in southern Syria. In fact, the Syrian regime attaches great importance to the telecommunications sector as it is one of the key sectors of the economy that provides the treasury with fees regularly; the Syrian citizen has to pay the internet bill, unlike the vital sectors such as water and electricity, or otherwise the government will cut off the internet access.

Before the Syrian regime regained control of the province of Daraa in 2018, the residents of Daraa amid the degradation of internet service, relied on some Jordanian telecommunications network whose coverage reached the border towns.

The residents of Daraa, today, are forced to use the internet access from the local internet service providers (ISPs), which witness frequent internet interruptions due to the power cuts.

Restoration attempts

Enab Baladi learned from an employee in the Communications Directorate in Daraa (refusing the publication of his full name for security reasons) that the directorate is working on repairing the ISPs and the cable feeding the city of Daraa and its countryside. The employee stressed that in the current stage, the directorate is expanding the coverage of networks on the area of four-kilometer from the surrounding of each ISP. This is the range of Internet coverage through gateways broadcast by the ISPs.

A year ago, the Minister of Communications and Technology in the government of the Syrian regime, Iyad Al-Khatib, ordered “the provision of financial support for the Communication Directorate in Daraa, the immediate maintenance to the post office, 1,000 Internet gates to the communications branch,” on 20 March 2019. Since then, the Tel Shehab and Busra al-Sham ISPs have begun to operate and offer subscriptions for their own users.

The Director of Syrian Telecom branch in Daraa Ahmad al-Hariri, in an interview with the government newspaper al-Baath conducted on 2 December 2019, said that the “Syrian Telecom Company (STC)” continues to work on rehabilitating the communications network and infrastructure of the ISPs in al-Taiba, al-Musayfirah, Nasseb, at a total cost of 45 million Syrian pounds (SYP- 42, 857 USD), in addition to 16 million SYP, allocated for other equipment.

The employee interviewed by Enab Baladi said that the network breakdowns are large, and maintenance workshops work to equip the ISPs and connect the optical cables, pointing out that the power outage affects the provision of service to the citizen.

Internet portals attract people

The ISPs in Daraa saw a heavy turnout by citizens, to benefit from the open internet services via portals, at a price of 2,500 SYP (2.5 USD) as a monthly fee.

Enab Baladi conducted interviews with three citizens in Daraa province (refusing the publication of their full name for security reasons), to know the most common Internet connection methods used in Daraa. Enab Baladi found out that they re-activated their disconnected lines after an interruption of more than five years, via paying their fees.

Citizens in Daraa activate their internet access through terrestrial gates, as it is less expensive than satellite internet access, indicating that the data service is monopolized by both the MTN and Syriatel.

The satellite internet access depends on the cards that contain a secret number and its price varies from one network to another; the average price is 500 SYP (0.5 USD) per gigabyte (GB), the same prices of the two telecom companies, “MTN” and “Syriatel.”

The sources of Enab Baladi referred to the frequent power outages, which limit the internet access at the present time, given that ISPs do not work with diesel generators and solar panels are not installed to operate them.

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