Telecoms regulator: Jordan blocks around 300 websites

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Jordanian authorities have banned around 300 websites for various reasons, including requests by the Land Transport Authority to stamp out unlicensed rideshare apps, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority chairman Bassem Sarhan said in a Sunday statement.

The statement also reviewed the government’s efforts to reform the Jordanian telecommunications sector, including the expected introduction of 5G service next year and satellite Internet in the near future. 

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority receives requests from various agencies, according to Sarhan, and then reaches out to the companies Orange, Umniah, and Zain to implement blocks.

Some requests come from the Media Authority, others from the Land Transport Authority, and some others from the Ministry of Digital Economy. Of the 300 banned websites and services, around thirty of them are transportation apps, and Sarhan stressed that their status will be changed if they receive a license.

Authorities recently blocked the Chinese social network TikTok, which Sarhan said was an issue of illicit content. He noted that the issue of blocking TikTok and other apps has come up outside of Jordan as well.

Several members of U.S. Congress have proposed laws to ban TikTok from American devices in order to limit Chinese influence.

On the topic of users using VPNs to circumvent blocks, Sarhan emphasized that filtering is not an easy process, and requires continuous efforts and technical expertise that telecommunications companies should provide.

Last year, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority signed an agreement with Orange, Umniah, and Zain to introduce 5G cellular service in the country. The agreement stipulates that the 5G service must cover major areas within three years, and must be available at least 50% of the Jordanian population within three years.

Sarhan said that the process is “proceeding along the agreed-upon lines” and the Kingdom is on track to see 5G rollouts by the first quarter of 2024.

He also revealed that there is a company currently working to gain a license to provide Internet service via satellites, and that two experiments in northern and southern Jordan led to encouraging results.

The company is expected to apply for a license within the first quarter of this year, although it does not mean the service will be ready immediately, Sarhan said.

“Satellites are available in several countries, and it is our duty to move from traditional work to creativity,” he noted. “Jordan’s mountainous geography requires a constant search for alternatives.”

Sarhan pointed to the tourist region of Wadi Rum, where the need to preserve natural landscape prevents the installation of cell towers, but satellites could fill the gap.


Translated by Matthew Petti

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