Latakia residents complain increased internet fees, poor service

Syrian Telecommunications Company employees – June 9, 2023 (Syrian Telecommunications Company)

Syrian Telecommunications Company employees – June 9, 2023 (Syrian Telecommunications Company)

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Latakia – Linda Ali

The increase in internet package prices in areas under Syrian regime control has imposed new burdens on many students and remote workers, who need the internet to complete their tasks around the clock.

Rawaa (25 years old) described the price hike of the packages as a “disaster” since she works as a secretary remotely for an Arab company, which requires her to be in continuous virtual meetings over the Zoom application, in addition to being online every day for at least eight hours.

Before the last price increase decision, the young woman living in Jableh city in the countryside of Latakia, was paying 120,000 Syrian pounds monthly for a 120GB package. However, under the new decision, that package was canceled and replaced with a 110GB package priced at 270,000 Syrian pounds.

Like the majority of those working from regime-controlled areas for institutions abroad, the young woman does not receive a large salary; it does not exceed 250 US dollars per month, at a time when employers are indifferent to the rising package prices, as wages are pre-determined, and it is difficult to demand an increase due to the soaring internet fees.

Hashem (32 years old), who works as a video editor with a channel on the YouTube application that broadcasts from outside Syria, requires fast internet, which the fixed telephone’s internet does not provide. Therefore, he resorts to Syrian cellular telecommunications companies, since they offer higher speeds.

The young man told Enab Baladi that until last summer, he was able to complete his work easily through home internet, but now, despite subscribing to a 5GB speed and doubling it since that time, the situation has not changed for him, and the poor internet condition persists.

Hashem needs at least 300,000 Syrian pounds per month to continue his work, which requires receiving video clips, applying montage, and then sending them back to the YouTube channel.

At the beginning of February, cellular telecommunications companies in Syria announced new prices for packages that include calls and the internet, in addition to special packages for using social media platforms that cover specific applications like WhatsApp or Facebook only.

Juhaina (43 years old), a remote worker, told Enab Baladi that she used to encourage her child to watch educational channels and documentaries or even watch cartoons on YouTube because of the lack of electricity and the abandonment of television altogether.

The rise in package prices forced Juhaina to prevent her child from following these clips, as the price of the internet package she bought for this purpose doubled from 90,000 to 175,000 Syrian pounds.

​​($1=14,650 SYP) according to the S-P Today website, which covers the trading rate of the Syrian pound to the dollar

In the countryside, Paying without network access

The major problem for rural and suburban residents, who cannot do without the internet necessary for their work, lies in the poor internet network, especially during power cuts, which witness one hour of supply for every 5 hours of disruption.

Ali (34 years old), activated a 50GB package at the price of 82,000 Syrian pounds. In addition to his government job, he also works as a translator and content writer with several educational blogs. Ali does not know, according to what he told Enab Baladi, whether the package will suffice for a month since his work requires him to research on many sites to prepare materials.

He added that he fears increasing his internet usage, which would force him to activate another package since his work may require him to search through dozens of references to find the information he wants, and the longer the search, the more internet he consumes.

The young man’s total earnings at the end of the month do not exceed 2 million Syrian pounds, at least 150,000 pounds of which go to the internet.

Ali resides in Basnada suburb in the countryside of Latakia, explaining that what annoys him the most is paying money for a service that is not available during the evening since he has to wake up early with the power supply to be able to work because the internet completely disappears after 8 PM and does not return except with electricity.

Before the last price hike in February, the Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Post raised the prices of cellular and fixed telecommunication services twice in 2023, under the pretext of “ensuring the continuity of services.”

Financial figures for the two cellular companies in Syria, Syriatel and MTN, show that the increases are an attempt to maintain profitability, while the scope and quality of the services remain without significant change.

According to Enab Baladi‘s monitoring, Syriatel’s revenues amounted to about a trillion Syrian pounds for the first nine months of 2023, compared to 456.6 billion for the same period of 2022, an increase of 122%, while MTN’s revenues were about 532 billion Syrian pounds compared to 264.4 billion pounds for 2022, an increase of 101%.

 

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