(The Irish Times via NewsEdge) Iran's Islamic government has opened a new front in its drive to stifle domestic political dissent and combat the influence of western culture - by banning high-speed Internet links
In a blow to the country's estimated 5 million internet users, service providers have been told to restrict online speeds to 128kbps and have been forbidden from offering fast broadband packages.
The move by Iran's telecom regulator will make it more difficult to download foreign music, films and television programs, which the authorities blame for undermining Islamic culture among the younger generation.
It will also impede efforts by political opposition groups to organize by uploading information to the Internet.
The order follows a purge on illegal satellite dishes, which millions of Iranians use to watch western television clandestinely. Police have seized thousands of dishes in recent months.
The latest step has drawn condemnation from MPs, Internet service companies and academics, who say it will hamper Iran's progress.
'Every country in the world is moving towards modernization, and a major element of this is high-speed Internet access,' said Ramazan-ali Sedeghzadeh, chairman of the parliamentary telecommunications committee. 'The country needs it for development and access to contemporary science.'
Iran has not responded to a western incentive package that includes the offer of state-of-the-art Internet technology in return for the suspension of a key part of the country's nuclear program.
A petition branding the high-speed ban as 'backward and unprincipled' bearing more than 1,000 signatures is to be sent to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
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