Iran bans fast internet to cut western influence
In a blow to the country’s estimated five million internet users, service providers have been told to restrict online speeds to 128 kilobytes a second and been forbidden from offering fast broadband packages.
The move by Iran’s telecommunications regulator will make it more difficult to download foreign music, films and television programmes, which the authorities blame for undermining Islamic culture among the younger generation. It will also impede efforts by political opposition groups to organise by uploading information on to the net.
The order follows a purge on illegal satellite dishes, which millions of Iranians use to clandestinely watch western television. Police have seized thousands of dishes in recent months.
The latest step has drawn condemnation from MPs, internet service companies and academics, who say it will hamper Iran’s progress.
“Every country in the world is moving towards modernisation and a major element of this is high-speed internet access,’’ said Ramazan-ali Sedeghzadeh, chairman of the parliamentary telecommunications committee. “The country needs it for development and access to contemporary science.’’
Iran has not responded to a western incentive package that includes the offer of state-of-the-art internet technology in return for the suspension of a key part of the country’s nuclear programme.
A petition branding the high-speed ban as “backward and unprincipled’’ bearing more than 1,000 signatures is to be sent to president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Scores of websites and blogs are censored using hi-tech US-made filtering equipment. Iran filters more websites than any other country apart from China. High-speed links can be used with anti-filtering devices to access filtered sites.
The telecoms regulator declined to explain the decision but said it was taken by “a collection of policy-makers’’. However, Etemad, a pro-reformist newspaper, suggested it was part of an official campaign to stem a western “cultural invasion’’.