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Persian Letters

Iran's National Internet Gets Late Spring Launch Date

It appears that Iranians may have to contend with more Internet restrictions in the near future.
It appears that Iranians may have to contend with more Internet restrictions in the near future.
Iran’s so-called "national Internet" will be launched in either in late May or June, according to an announcement by Iranian Telecommunications Minister Reza Taghipour.

Speaking on February 20 at a cyber-defense forum in Tehran, Taghipour said the national Internet is one of the steps Iran is taking toward creating infrastructures aimed at boosting its cyber-defense capabilities.

Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Taghipour as saying, "Supporting local software and creating secure communication infrastructure are among the most important strategic decisions in the field of cyber defense, and in this regard the first phase of this network will become operational in the month of Khordad" -- the third month of the Iranian civil calendar, which begins in May and ends in June.

Iranian officials have been promising to launch a national Internet since at least 2006. But they have provided little details about its scope, which has stoked fears that it could cut off citizen’s access to the World Wide Web. 

Iran already has one of the world’s toughest Internet censorship regimes, routinely blocking thousands of websites deemed immoral or threatening to the country’s national security.

Webmail Accounts Blocked

On February 20, for the second time in recent weeks, web users in Iran reported that their access to Gmail, Yahoo mail, and HTTPS websites had been blocked.

Some Iranians told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that the usual antifiltering tools they had been using in the past to access blocked websites, were not working anymore.

A few users contacted by RFE/RL on February 21 said they managed to access their Gmail accounts, while others complained that they still couldn’t access their mails and some websites.  

The reason for the Internet disruption is not clear, and officials have failed to clarify the issue.

There has been speculation that the recent disruptions are related to the launch of the national Internet.

It could also be a measure by Iranian authorities to prevent opposition calls for an election boycott ahead of the March 2 parliamentary poll.

The disruptions have been criticized by citizens, political websites based inside the country as well as some officials, including lawmaker Ali Tavakoli who has warned that the establishment will pay a price for it.

'A Tool For Color Revolutions'

On February 21, Taghipour said that the Internet cannot be trusted and, by its global nature, represents a threat.

"Today we see that the Internet has been a very powerful tool, which has been used in color revolutions," he said.

Taghipour also alleged that Google shares information with the United States' Central Intelligence Agency.

His comments echoed warnings by other Iranian officials who have claimed that Western intelligence agencies use social media, including Google+, to gather information for their spying activities.

Speaking at the same cyber-defense forum as Taghipour, the commander of the country's police, Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam, maintained that Iran's connection to the world should not be more than necessary.

"Why should we use services, including email, which are based in countries such as the [United State]." he asked.

He said it would be much better if those services were based inside Iran, and offered assurances that the national Internet will not deprive Iranians of access to the World Wide Web.

"That’s not the case," he said. "The relationship with the outside [world] should be as needed."

The comments by Taghipour and Ahmadi Moghadam reflect the Iranian regime's difficult relationship with the Internet, which it uses for its own purposes -- including business and propaganda -- while simultaneously trying to prevent citizens from accessing it freely.

Now it appears more restrictions could be on the horizon.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Mahan Abbasi from: Los Angeles
February 21, 2012 22:50
This idea is doomed to failure. The government of Iran should spend monies on infrastructure such as an Airport and roads. They should not waste resources on odd ideas like this which seeks to control people's minds.

I been to Iran and seen the horrible state of things. Drugs pouring from Afghanistan and despair everywhere. Instead of building a future, these stupid Mullahs are building Mosques at every corner and sending Iran's wealth to Hezbollah and Hamas.

This is all the while the civilian infrastructure is falling apart and the population rises. This government in Iran is trying to build walls at all levels because the truth hurts. In the end, these Mullahs are going by the way of Ghaddfi.
In Response

by: Frank from: London
February 22, 2012 19:08
People in Iran will still be able to see what the outside world is like on their satellite TVs. It will only cause inconvenience to the 30 million who use Google/Facebook, etc. in Iran. That, and the rising meat, bread and rice prices (they are linked to the devaluation?) plus the refusal to let the IAEA inspector see Parchin plus the hypocrisy of Iranian bombers consorting with Thai sex workers while the regime threatens to execute a Canadian Iranian for alleged pornography offences will all help to see the regime finished soon. Khamanei is collecting enemies like never before. Khamenei doesn't listen and the sanctions help to turn his religious (self preservation?) decisions into unpopular economic decisions (which everyone knows he is not qualified to make). Regime end coming soon to Iran?

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 23, 2012 08:00
Whle gringos and their friends are making all this fuss around Iran, the price of oil has been growing steadily: from about US $ 105 / barrelin mid-January it has reached the makr of US $ 123 / barrel today (Brent).

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Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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