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15 April 2024

Internet access to be liberalised

By Anjana Sankar



New guidelines that will liberalise access to the internet are being drawn up by the UAE’s telecoms regulator.

A new Internet Penetration Policy will be announced by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) by the end of the year. It will set out in detail the types of material that can be carried on the internet and content that should be blocked.

The rules will open up many sites – or sections of sites – that are currently forbidden without jeopardising the UAE’s cultural values.

“The penetration policy will be liberalised in the sense it will be more specific,” a TRA spokesman told Emirates Business. “We do not want to deny access to websites that are social portals and encourage cultural interaction in today’s globalised world.

“At the same time it has to be done without losing our identity, traditions, ethics, morals and culture.”

He said sections of social networking websites such as Facebook that encouraged dating would be banned under the new policy, but added: “UAE residents will have access to the website excluding those parts.”

And he said the new regulations would apply even in Dubai’s media freezone, which at present enjoys unrestricted internet access.

“The policy will be issued by the UAE’s TRA and will be implemented throughout the country. It is a matter of sovereignty – all the emirates fall within the sovereignty of UAE so they are all required to comply with its federal laws and regulations.

“Before the creation of the TRA it was more or less a case of whatever was banned on television – and sometimes more – was blocked on the internet by etisalat. We looked at international best practices and approved the software used by etisalat to censor the internet.

“Now a new player, du, is in the market and it also uses software that automatically bans certain websites. But du’s software is not as effective so we will introduce the penetration policy to include or exclude content.”

Meanwhile the TRA is reviewing the telecoms operators’ marketing offers and service pricing through its Price Control Policy (PCP).

Director-General Mohamed Al Ghanim said: “This policy aims to protect consumers’ interests by permanently strengthening competition in the telecoms sector. This is done by preventing practices that may endanger competition such as cross-subsidy, tying consumers in to long-term contracts, pricing some services at below cost and other similar practices that contradict the concept of competition.”