Experts Criticize the Internet Situation

In recent years, Azerbaijan has made a breakthrough in Internet development, confirmed by a rise in the number of social network users, up to one million. However, there are serious problems with access to high-speed Internet in the region, high tariffs for Internet services, and quality.
This was the leitmotif of today’s conference on Internet governance in Azerbaijan, organized by the Azerbaijan Internet Forum (AIF) in collaboration with the American organization IREX supported USAID.
According to Angela Nicoara, program leader of IREX-promedia, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss the Internet in Azerbaijan in the preparation of proposals and recommendations for the upcoming Global Internet Governance Forum under the auspices of the UN, November 6-9.
IREX supports the development of media and Internet infrastructure in Azerbaijan, including rural areas. With the support of Wi-Fi by IREX, two universities in Baku and Sumgait were provided with Internet. Training courses were organized, and Internet computers installed, and Internet kiosks in 30 villages, etc.
According to Isfendiyar Aliyev, head of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), over the last five years the ICT sector in Azerbaijan has increased six times, and according to the International Telecommunications Union, Azerbaijan is in the top ten countries with the highest rates of Internet development.
Aliyev also pointed to a significant decline in the price of Internet. The price of 1Mbit per second decreased from 250 manats in 2007 to 10 manat in 2012. However, high-speed internet is available in only 35% of settlements. In this regard, the investment project to provide the country with optical cables has been designed for 2013-2015, providing rural users with internet speeds of 10-30 Mbit / s, and in Baku, more than 30 Mbit/s. The launch of a telecommunication satellite from Azerbaijan in January 2013 will contribute to Internet development.
The head of the AMF, Osman Gunduz, noticed Internet connectivity diversification. Before users in Azerbaijan connected to the Internet via Dial-Up and ADSL, now its possible to do so through datakart, cable TV, and mobile phones.
According to Gunduz the number of users reached 900,000 and twitter 40,000; however, the State they do not want to integrate social networks, except for the presidential administration, the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Taxes.
Gunduz did point out the serious problem with the quality of the Internet, due in part to technical problems with cables and the infrastructure of ATS. Also smaller quantities in the supply traffic were claimed.
As for the on-line transparency of government agencies, at best is 30-35 per cent. Meaning, citizens do not get 70% of the information they need to know. Central executive authorities and local authorities put 10% of information on the Internet. Gunduz also criticized the staff ombudsman’s work in controlling the transparency of government agencies.
Another representative of the AMF, Gasimov Wahid, criticized the situation with the domain “az”. The domain’s price and the number of procedures for owners of this domain totaled only 15,000. Getting a domain costs 40 manat ($50), with an annual fee of 20 manat. In a country such as Belarus, a domain costs $12.
In Azerbaijan, the procedure of getting a domain is complicated; requiring buyers to come to the office to record the companies, while in the rest of the world there is a procedure on-line. In addition, the availability of domain names is not transparent. Gasimov noted that existing deficiencies in the system and the monopoly in issuing a domain create conditions for corruption.
However, Faig Farmanov, the head of İntrans, expressed disagreement in the criticism in the technical support of the national domain operation. He noted the on-line system has been established, and will be launched soon. He stated further that on November 1, annual tariffs for domain “az”, third level “”, “” etc. will be reduce by up to 10 manat. Also on November 1 free technical support, along with government domains, for educational institutions will be provided.
Alasgar Mammadli an expert of IREX, said in Azerbaijan there are still high rates for Internet services. The cost of 1 Mbit/s is 15% of the minimum wage, while in Russia it is only 3.5%, and 0.3% in Turkey.
Most people stay away from e-government services, because access is based on the taxpayer identification number, and not by personal identification data.
An expert Director of the Media Rights Institute, Rashid Hajili, told Turan, minimum standards for Internet access has yet to be established in Azerbaijan. The state’s infrastructure monopoly is the reason. The equipment and cables used for the Internet and ATS belong to state enterprises “Aztelekom” and Baku Telephone Production Association. Thus, providers have to operate under the dictation of the Ministry of Communications, which also certifies their equipment.
Bulk traffic also supplies the monopoly company Delta-Telecom, controlling almost 95% of the market, said the expert.

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