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SAM releases its third report within the Digital Rights Project in Yemen
Restrictions on Internet service in Yemen


SAM released a report on restrictions on Internet service in Yemen, which have hindered users' access to the service in large areas of the country.

The report stated that the ratio of fixed Internet subscriptions to the population amounted to 1.21%, with a total of 400,000 subscribers, and the ratio of mobile Internet subscribers to the population reached 30.08%, with nearly 10 million subscribers, adding that the share of Internet users in Yemen is 30 KB of the total international capacity (174 GB).

The report cited examples of these restrictions, ranging from the monopoly of the service by the sole Internet provider "YemenNet" to controlling it through blocking and liquidation, narrowing the scope of the service, in addition to raising the prices of packages, stressing the owners of "commercial Wi-Fi networks" and other restrictions that have limited the vulnerability of a wide segment of Yemenis and deprived them of the possibility of enjoying adequate Internet service.

The report pointed out that Internet services in Yemen are poor in quality and prices offered, and a large amount of the Internet services required in the local market have not yet been met, and the Internet penetration rate in Yemen is the lowest among the countries of the Middle East and North Africa region, adding that reliance on a single and expensive source of supply of Internet capacity (Falcon Maritime Cable), has deprived local Internet operators of competitiveness and weakened their ability to offer affordable prices to the end user.

The report issued by "Sam" explained that the monopoly of Internet services by a single provider prevents the private sector from competing in the market, and therefore "the provider exploits the matter to impose its conditions on the user who accepts them compulsively, because there is no alternative, in addition to the fact that relying on a single provider has made the percentage of users of the Internet in Yemen the lowest in the Arab world and globally.

The report pointed out that the launch of the "AdenNet" network in 2018, to provide communications and Internet services came as an attempt to break the monopoly of YemenNet, "However, its services do not differ much from the services of "the first one" in terms of poor quality, continuing: that the Internet provided through "Aden Net" is most of the time, worse than that provided by "YemenNet".

The report considered that the law regulating the telecommunications sector in Yemen "does not represent a comprehensive legal reference for mobile phone companies as well as the Internet and their services, as these companies began to work several years after the issuance of the two laws, noting that the problem is the existence of an outdated law and prompted the conclusion of various treaties, which weakens the legal framework that regulates the sector and hinders private investment.

The report "Restrictions on Internet Service in Yemen" pointed out that the telecommunications and Internet sector is on the verge of fragmentation between the warring parties, as there is no longer any commitment to the legal, policy and regulatory framework of the telecommunications sector, and it has become mandatory for private operators of mobile phones to follow the instructions of both the Ministries of Communications and Information Technology in Sana'a and Aden and pay taxes, warning of what this may cause from the decline in the scope of coverage nationwide and the level of market competition, and affect the possibility of connectivity and ease the cost of services Communications and Internet for Yemenis.

The Ministry of Communications' restrictions on "owners of commercial internet networks" have pushed many internet cafes and private networks to close due to the high cost and low consumer demand, and as a result, many have lost access to subscribe to the network, especially in remote areas not covered by YemenNet's services, the report said. However, the Public Telecommunications Corporation considered that the resale of the service by wireless networks is an illegal act and outside the framework of the service policies and contrary to them, and in turn, the Ministry of Communications of Sana'a, confirmed that the resale of the service by network owners caused the weakening and distortion of services and harmed the interests of users and exploited them in an extortionate manner, as well as being not subject to the approved technical standards.

The report argued that the imposition of a new price policy for Internet packages, and raising the prices of subscription to the service by 130% compared to what was the situation in the past, is illogical, given the difficult economic conditions experienced by the Yemeni citizen, who has low income, but an official at the Ministry of Communications pointed out that "what happened in the restructuring and distribution of the new Supernet packages included a reduction for users of services directly, while the slight percentage of the increase was limited to the two categories 4.8 megabytes, due to their multi-purpose uses."

In the context of violations suffered by Internet users, the report revealed that there is a significant difference between the speed of the "Internet line" specified by "Yemennet" and the actual speed shown by the test index via "Speed Test" as well as that the speed of the Internet at peak times dwindles to a level below 25% of the assumed speed, and the report added that despite the low quality of the Internet in Yemen to this extent, "the Houthis have deliberately reduced the speed of the Internet in Yemen, on purpose, according to the report Statement by the former head of the Internet Society "Walid Al-Saqqaf" and complaints of users.

SAM said it had received complaints from some fixed internet users about service outages and their points suddenly crashing, and then confiscated and resold on the black market, to other subscribers. Fixed Internet subscribers have also accused YemenNet of reducing the capacity of packages by almost 20%, compared to the size of the supposed packages, despite paying the value of the package with the tax, as specified by the company, according to their claims.

The report noted that the digital rights team at SAM had written to the Ministry of Communications, the Telecommunications Public Corporation, YemenNet for comment, but they had not received any response, as of the time the report was issued.

The SAM report recommended the need to enact new laws and regulations that would regulate the telecommunications sector and address the regulatory and operational imbalances suffered by the sector, in addition to liberalizing telecommunications, and allowing the private sector to provide Internet service, with quality and competitive prices.

The organizers of the digital rights project in Yemen called on the Internet service provider to review the prices of the service, approve a new price commensurate with the capabilities of citizens, and take measures and procedures that take into account the interest of Internet users, and enable them to access the service smoothly, and called for the expansion of the scope of Internet service, and work to develop the infrastructure of the telecommunications sector, in line with the growing demand for the service.

SAM renewed its call on the concerned authorities to immediately unblock news sites and stop practices that affect media freedoms in the country, calling on the parties to the conflict in Yemen to neutralize the telecommunications sector from military and political conflicts, and avoid using it as a pressure and bargaining chip.

The report "Internet Restrictions in Yemen" is the third in the Digital Rights Project, implemented by SAM with the support of Internews, with the aim of advocating for the digital rights issues of Yemenis, leading to a free and secure digital space.

To download the report from here