Etisalat raids VoIP net cafes

UAE telco Etisalat, currently the country’s only internet service provider, has spent the past week clamping down on those internet cafes in Dubai found to be offering illegal VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephone services.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  April 2, 2007

UAE telco Etisalat, currently the country’s only internet service provider, has spent the past week clamping down on those internet cafes in Dubai found to be offering illegal VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephone services. According to local sources, officials from Etisalat and Dubai Economic Department have visited several internet cafes in the Emirate over the past two weeks – including no less than four cafes on just one Dubai street – in order to fine and temporarily close down businesses found to be offering VoIP calls to end users and/or selling pre-paid VoIP telephone cards (thus violating their Etisalat agreements). Windows Middle East spoke to one Dubai internet café owner, who confirmed that officials first arrived unannounced at his premises a week ago with a violation of contract notice that cited the illegal use of internet services. Two days later the officials returned to issue a fine of AED3000, at which point they also confiscated the café’s keys. A further two days later, the café’s internet connection was stopped. The owner in question was required to sign an ‘undertaking’ letter with Etisalat, stating that he would not violate his Etisalat contract again, in order for his internet connection to be restored. Once this document had been signed, his service was restored immediately. “We know that we are violating, but we have to make a living,” the café owner told Windows, adding that he thought “Etisalat should really review its internet price policy.” During Etisalat’s on-site visits, café owners have reportedly been handed letters from Dubai’s Fraud Control unit. One such letter, seen by Windows Middle East, reads: “The use and sale of VoIP cards, services and calls is strictly prohibited as per Etisalat terms and conditions as well as the United Arab Emirates Telecom Law as per the Telecom Regulatory Authority directives.” The letter continues, “Anyone found in breach of the above will be held accountable and will face legal consequences.” In addition to this VoIP warning, the document goes on to warn café owners to “abide by the number of PCs contracted” in their Al Mawrood service contracts (the document internet café owners sign with Etisalat). Windows Middle East is currently awaiting comment from Etisalat on this story.

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