Why the Internet in Lebanon sucks (and why it got worse)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, the new Lebanese Minister of Telecommunications Boutros Harb decided to “improve” the Lebanese Internet connection. The ministry has released the following table with the new packages that give you much more for a lot less:

Up to 88%, wow!
Up to 88%, wow!

With the new packages, a lot of Lebanese Internet users thought that we’re finally improving. With up to 88% increase, we’re definitely trying to catch up. However, the result of that increase turned out to be negative. The connection country-wise became so bad to a point where it’s unusable. What happened puzzled a lot of people. Everyone thought their ISP was lying to them. That’s not really the case.

During the Lebanese civil war (1975 – 1990), the government came out tired and broke. A lot of maintenance was needed to be done. Despite that, we were able to somehow keep up with the rise of internet in the 1990s. Dial-up connections spread throughout the whole country, and it didn’t take long for most the population to have a working internet connection.

Everyone knows our government isn’t all that good though, right? We were able to have a working dial-up network for a while now, but we didn’t do much for a long while. Until 2007, when the government upgraded most of the phone lines and it was ready, DSL went public. Although the DSL speeds were slow compared to the worldwide average, the new 256Kbps and 512Kbps were definitely way better than dial-up speeds.

A lot of countries began replacing DSL lines with fiber optics. We, however, did not do that. Instead, we continued to slowly improve our DSL lines until we hit 1Mbps average on most lines. While some areas are still stuck with dial-up. Some are enjoying 8-16Mbps.

The packages were expensive and the speeds were low. However, we were at least getting the speed we paid for. The expensive packages were restraining to most people. It caused them to lightly use the Internet limiting themselves to a few YouTube videos per month and rare Skype video calls. It also made them more dependent on WhatsApp and Facebook messenger.

It was all fine and dandy. Until a few months ago, the ministry decided to upgrade the packages. Oh well, that’s so good from them! Except for one problem, we don’t have the technology. The speed were too fast for the current cables to handle. In addition to that, the cheaper quota made people use the Internet more heavily. That, with other factors, caused the Lebanese network to slow down drastically. The mobile network remained unaffected whatsoever (new packages were introduced but are also expensive), stabilizing at about 2-5Mbps on 3G and 25-30Mbps on 4G/LTE. It depended on the area.

As you can see, the government isn’t exactly lying to use or is trying to steal our money (in this case). What happened was simply the result of bad planning and the fact that we’re unprepared for this. Next time the government wants try doing this, it should try to improve the network instead of simply increasing our usage.

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