June 15, 2012.
A new law in Ethiopia criminalizes the use of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services such as Skype or Google Talk, the latest in this East African country's increasingly tough Internet restrictions. Getting caught can carry a prison term of up to 15 years, the severity of which is perhaps meant in part to deter Ethiopian web users from trying to simply get around the ban, for example with proxy servers.
The two commonly cited explanations for the law are "national security" (read: tough to monitor) and to protect the Ethiopian government's state-owned telecommunications service. Ethio Telecom is a monopoly, and much-despised for its expensive calling rates, especially internationally. Skype and Google Voice provide cheaper, or often free, ways to place calls. Ethiopia's Internet penetration rate is the second-lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa, but the country's economy is booming, its cities expanding, and its middle class growing.
Those factors tend to coincide with higher rates of Internet access -- both because more people can afford it, and because internal migration (moving from a town to a city to find work, say) make long-distance communication more important -- but not yet here. Criminalizing a popular Internet service isn't likely to do much to make Ethiopia more wired, nor will it likely attract many of the foreign investors who are otherwise blanketing Africa and accelerating its rise.
Read the rest here.
Comment: National security is not so much the issue. The state just wants to keep its stranglehold on the communications sector.
It is an old twist to new technology
Obviously the fascist state is alive and well in Ethiopia.