In Turkmenistan Internet connections sputter and fail. A page can be blocked one morning, timeout that evening, and open without problem the next day. The Web is neither fast nor predictable and you pay per megabyte.
Now, the state monopoly Turkmenistan Online promises to change that, at least the speed part. An unlimited, high-speed connection will cost just $6,821 (tax included), AFP reports.
Clients can surf the web with up to 2,048 kilobytes per second speed for the price, according to the tariffs posted on www.online.tm, the Internet provider of TurkmenTelekom, a telecom monopoly in the Central Asian country.
Unlimited Internet is also available at slower speeds, with the least expensive option of 64 kilobytes per second for a bargain price of $213 per month.
The cheapest Internet access in Turkmenistan costs $43 per month but only allows two gigabytes of traffic.
Per capita GDP in Turkmenistan was about $7,400 in 2010 according to the CIA World Factbook, or just over $616 per month.
Turkmenistan is no beacon of media freedom. Reporters Without Borders ranked it the third-worst place to be a journalist in its 2010 Press Freedom Index. It also called Turkmenistan one of the world’s “Internet Enemies,” because “Information is still oppressively controlled in this post-Stalinian dictatorship” where under 1 percent of the population is online. (Incidentally, Tunisia and Egypt make the same exclusive list of 12 enemies.)
In December, authorities shutdown Russia’s MTS mobile service provider, which also offered Internet access through cheap USB-modems that connected through their cellphone network. The move forced 2.4 million cellular subscribers to use the overcrowded, state-controlled Altyn-Asyr service. It’s unclear how many MTS USB-modem Internet users were pushed off the network; Altyn-Asyr does not offer a USB-modem service.
From the outside, it looks like Ashgabat is trying to keep its Internet-penetration levels at record lows. But maybe the state needs the cash for its new horse beauty contests, which the president has just decreed shall be held every April.