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Control Skype et al, Saudi regulator tells operators

CITC refers to comms services’ ‘flouting’ of telecom laws in wake of blockage threat

Control Skype et al, Saudi regulator tells operators
Saudi’s regulator wants telcos to monitor or block services like Skype.

Saudi Arabia's telecom regulator, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), has spoken out against Web communication tools and directed the kingdom's telcos to act swiftly to ensure that the online services meet "regulatory requirements", Reuters reported.

The commission's statement, posted on its website, comes shortly after it had threatened to block VoIP tools Skype and Viber and instant messaging system WhatsApp, if the companies behind the services did not provide Saudi authorities with the means of monitoring the heavily encrypted communications.

"It has become evident that some communication applications through [the] Internet don't meet regulatory requirements," CITC said in the statement.

"The authority has informed licensed [telecom] providers of the need to work with the developers of these applications to quickly meet these requirements."

The statement made no mention of what regulations had been breached or of any timeframe for compliance, but said it was acting to "protect society from any negative aspects that could harm the public interest". It urged telecom companies to take steps to monitor or block the services, a task that has proved difficult in the past for Gulf operators, including those in the UAE.

The kingdom faces a monumental surge in mobile and Web penetration, with 1.88 handsets for every person and 15.8m Internet subscribers. YouTube videos-per-user consumption is also three times as high that of the US market.

Saudi officials have bee pushing for greater control over online activities for some time. While it was spared the scale of uprising that occurred in other MENA states during the Arab Spring, authorities still face security issues on the southern border with Yemen and unrest among the minority Shia community, particularly in the eastern area of Qatif.

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