The Condition of The Internet in
Turkmenistan is a relatively small country in
central Asia which shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran. It was
part of the old Soviet Union before it gained independence in 1991.
Several years of chronic under-investment and tight state censorship
on internet usage has left the country with an outdated internet
service. However, there have been some significant changes made in
recent years which should result in a marked improvement in both
broadband quality and reach over the next ten years.
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Turkmenistan is currently one of the most secretive nations in the
world. The limited internet access is extremely unreliable, and it
is only available to a small percentage of the population. Anyone
who is lucky enough to have some form of internet access will have
to deal with constant surveillance from the state. Most
international sites have been banned, and there are tight controls
regarding the domestic agencies who may operate their own websites.
TurkmenTelecom, the Ashgabat City Network and Altyn Asyr all provide
varying levels of electronic communications, yet they are tightly
controlled by government ministers. All companies wishing to post
their own websites must first apply to the Cabinet of Ministers for
a licence; a lengthy procedure which has severely restricted the
growth of internet usage in the country.
The only designated internet service provider in Turkmenistan is
TurkmenTelecom. The official government position suggests that new
providers are welcome to apply for a licence to operate internet
services; however, the reality is that the process involves a
lengthy government review. It is believed that, thus far, no other
internet service providers have applied for a licence since the
regulations were implemented. This monopoly on the industry has made
internet access expensive; far beyond the meagre budgets of many of
the local people.
The government of Turkmenistan was aware that the internet services
in the country were slow and highly unreliable. In order to improve
internet communications, a deal was signed with TATA communications.
The agreement gave TurkmenTelecom access to the Transit-Asia-Europe
fibre-optic network. This allowed ordinary people the chance to gain
access to high-speed ADSL networks for the first time. In only five
years, penetration of the market increased from less than one
percent to well over sixty percent.
The country's service is still widely censored, and a number of
different websites are automatically filtered by government
agencies. A 2008 test by OpenNet detected a number of filtered
websites, and several of them extolled the virtues of free speech.
It was also discovered that sites containing references to women's
rights, pornography and gambling were also systematically blocked.
The future of Turkmenistan's internet service rests heavily on the
future direction of the political establishment. Nearly forty
percent of the population still has no regular internet access.
Sites promoting free thought and anti-government sentiment are still
routinely blocked. It is also believed that a sophisticated system
of internet surveillance is in place; even failed searches can be
identified and recorded against the individual. Although the
internet is still widely controlled, its speed of growth in the
country has been staggering, and it looks like continuing for some
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