Oman has just joined the club of what I call "Skype-paraonids": countries that think that allowing people to talk to each other over the Internet - using what is known as VoIP technology - is undermining their national security (Russia, India, Cuba, Germany are all proud members). From the Times of Oman:
The Royal Oman Police (ROP) raided 121 cyber cafes throughout the country and arrested 212 people for providing illegal Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoiP) service, a senior police officer said here yesterday.
Many cyber cafes and individuals were found using VoIP technology to provide cheap international phone services to customers, resulting in huge losses for local telecommunication providers, the officer said. ...Providing telecommunications services (international phone calls without a licence through Internet Protocol) is illegal in the Sultanate as per provisions of Article (20) of the Telecommunications Regulatory Act. Officials point out that violators of the telecom law will have to shell out RO50,000 or spend two years in jail or both.
Cheap international calls? Forget it. They are bad for your mental health, according to the Omani sultanate. Looking deeper into this reveals a whole trove of tricks and tips how to unblock VoIP in Oman - this must be a real pain not to be able to use Skype and other tools because of some state monopoly on communications...
And while we are on it: you should also forget about buying prepaid SIM cards for mobile service in Kashmir. They have been banned too - for the reasons of national security, of course. From AP:
A government ban on prepaid mobile phones to prevent rebels from using them to clandestinely plan attacks has stirred resentment among Indian-controlled Kashmir's impoverished residents, who depend on prepaid connections for inexpensive communication.
The move has led to angry protests amid warnings it put thousands of jobs at risk and jeopardised peace efforts in the disputed territory between the Indian government and Muslim separatists.
Authorities believe rebels use fake documents to obtain the phone cards to evade detection and detonate bombs. The Indian government announced last month that no new cards would be issued beginning November 1.
That preventing extremely poor and angry population from earning a living via mobiles may have even worse national security repercussions doesn't seem to be other anyone in Kashmir. It's as if rebels won't be able to get mobile phones through some other means...
p.s. Posting has been light here - and will remain so for the next few weeks: I am working on my book!