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  • (01. January 2010., 09:27:49)

Author Topic: The Internet in Kazakhstan: welcome to the land of $3,355 per month DSL  (Read 2009 times)

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With DSL prices like these, it's no wonder Borat left Kazakhstan behind1. A new report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (PDF) paints a grim picture of Internet access in Kazakhstan and shows how difficult life can be for those in poor and authoritarian countries who want to join the worldwide community of Internet users.

Consider the prices for Internet access, for one. Most users (and only four percent of the country even has access) hook up through state-owned Kazakhtelecom, a company not concerned with competitive pricing for its services. An unlimited dial-up plan costs about €82 ($111) in a country where the average monthly wage is €292 ($399). As for DSL, an unlimited 1.5Mbps connection costs €2,458 ($3,355) a month, and doesn't even included the required ADSL modem. Want a 6Mbps cable connection? It'll cost you, to the tune of €16,144 ($22,032) a month. As the OSCE report drily notes, this is more than a thousand times the price of such a connection in Western Europe.

This doesn't just make Internet access expensive; prices like this actually change the way that people use the Internet, as we've seen in other countries.

Getting a connection is only the first step, though. Internet policy decisions—such as canceling domain name registrations—can seem a bit, well, arbitrary., a domain registered by UK comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, was summarily shut down by the Association of a IT Companies in December 2005. The reason: "We've done this so he can't badmouth Kazakhstan under the .kz domain name," the head of the association told Reuters. "He can go and do whatever he wants at other domains."

The government is also not real excited about websites that publish "dirt," "lies," and threaten national security, and the country's Minister of Information last year announced that a comprehensive policy on dealing with these issues would soon be announced. Although it has yet to appear, Kazakhstan's "Information Security Concept" was approved by President Nursultan Nazarbayev. That "Concept" makes clear that Kazakhstan is faced with serious threats from "destructive illegal political, religious, and economic organizations," "certain foreign political, economic, military, and information structures," and "unlawful activities of political and economic organizations in creating, disseminating, and using information."

Bloggers who have published items critical of the government have been charged under statutes that prohibit any violations of the president's "honor and dignity." In 2003, a journalist complained that one of his favorite websites is being blocked. According to the report, "the prosecutor opened a criminal case against him for compromising the security system of Kazakhtelecom. He was beaten, sentenced and sent behind bars."

As that last example indicates, content filtering is alive and well in the country. For several years, the preferred method of blocking was apparently by IP address, but that came to an end in 2005. The method of choice is now "increasing the connection latency" so that undesirable sites take so long to load that users give up.

Kazakhstan has recently been attempting to raise its worldwide profile, and it has been a member of the OSCE since 1992. For both of those reasons, it may pay some attention to the report, which concludes by suggesting that the country get rid of the state telecom monopoly, that the OSCE should monitor networks in the country to see if Kazakhstan is still filtering content, and that the government there should work to "support affordable and safe hosting a websites with the national ISPs.
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