Rami Olwan

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Lebanon to Prohibit Commercial Use of Voice-Over-IP

The Telecommunication Ministry intends to end the use of voice-over-IP (VoIP) from personal computers to land-line telephones because the practice is depriving the treasury of badly needed income.

“Telecommunications Minister Charbel Nahas will not prevent individuals from using VoIP in Lebanon but only those using this service for commercial purposes will be stopped,” said an IT adviser at the Telecoms Ministry is targeting those who sell this service because only the Lebanese government has the right to use it for commercial purposes,” IT adviser Mahmoud Haidar told The Daily Star.

VoIP is a general term for a family of transmission technologies for delivering voice communications over IP networks such as the Internet or other packet-switched networks.

The Telecoms Ministry issued on June 9 a statement saying it was aiming to fight the illegal use of VoIP, adding that the government generates $150-million yearly from international calls, revenues which VoIP affects severely.

“Revenues generated by international calls are considered to be a great support to the treasury with the presence of a high public debt in Lebanon,” the statement said.

It added that the general directorate of investment and maintenance at the Telecoms Ministry established a technical center to control and fight the use of VoIP because it goes against Lebanon’s 2002 telecom laws.

“The use of VoIP is also against the treaty that was previously signed between the Lebanese Presidency and the International Telecommunication Union which considers that this service is not allowed on the Lebanese territories,” the statement said.

Consequently, and following the statement issued by the ministry , hundreds of Lebanese signed an online petition on June 20 objecting to the restrictions imposed by the ministry.

The petition stated that the VoIP technology has allowed Lebanese expatriates, immigrants, and students abroad to maintain family ties and uphold family values. It said that perhaps there are benefits to be reaped from banning these networks, but they are only short-term. “Banning these networks will, in the long term, only be detrimental to our sense of belonging to our friends and families, and ultimately to our home country, Lebanon: we will communicate less, share less, and, gradually, lose touch,” it added.

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