Telecom services gradually restored in Libya

Reconstruction is proceeding across Libya in a variety of vital sectors. Magharebia recently sat down with an official from the state telecom provider to see where things stand.

Engineer Mourad Belal, head of the media and documentation department at Libya Telecom and Technology, told Magharebia that under the old regime, the company was prevented from making necessary improvements in Libya's internet infrastructure.

"In the past, repression was gradual starting with blocking websites, to reducing speed and then completely turning off internet services in an attempt to hide facts that show the stark violation of all religious and humanitarian values and traditions," Belal said. "Service was restricted to a few people."

With regards to the destruction wrought by Kadhafi's forces during the war, Belal said that "state facilities were turned into military bases for storage or fighting, making them legitimate targets for the international alliance as they posed threats to civilians. As a result, the telecom sector, together with all other sectors, was affected."

"Many antennas and switchboards were damaged, and the cable that was providing services to the eastern region was cut, disconnecting services to the entire region," he continued. "This is in addition to many other damages ranging in intensity from minor to gross damages."

The telecom engineer also said many facilities were damaged by looting in sabotage, including the main cables linking Tunisia and Libya.

Belal noted that the company has completed several technical missions that have restored service to many areas, such as Misrata, Bani Walid and Sirte, which were among the cities that sustained some of the heaviest damage during the revolution.

At first, the telecom company offered service free of charge and without monthly limits. But the restoration of service has also led to an unprecedented growth in internet usage, forcing the state telecom provider to impose monthly bandwidth caps of 7 GB.

For their part, Libyan internet users expressed dissatisfaction at the pace of development.

"We're still in the same old programme with the same prices although living conditions have changed and although there are some who don't receive salaries," said Mohammed al-Sharif, an accountant and internet user.

"The internet has now become necessary and essential," al-Sharif added. "If we compare prices with neighbouring countries, we'll find that they are very high, although the service should have been provided for a nominal value for the current period. We've got tired of monopoly and restrictions. Enough is enough."

Telecommunications engineer Abdel Razzak al-Bakhbakhi said that the old system was built by companies from China to meet proposals by Kadhafi's son Mohammed.

"Libya is a rich country and companies are supposed to be good, famous and international and should be from countries that make these items," he said, adding that he rejected foreign firms "because there are good Libyan engineers and technicians".

Meanwhile, Nasser Ibrahim called for opening the door to competition and changing contracts to benefit both the internet provider and the user.

"I'm against free service, but at the same time, the service should be provided for prices suitable to citizens' living conditions. Citizens must be encouraged to use the internet and browse; we've seen how children access the internet, and this is a very advanced step," he said. "Countries are now measured by the number of internet users."

(Source: Magharebia)

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