Internet Censorship in Turkmenistan. Internet Price, Availability, and Restrictions

Countries Mar 15, 2021

Turkmenistan is one of the most closed countries in the world. Turkmenistan has a public Internet, which a citizen of the country can connect to, but there are specific difficulties. This article talks about the situation with the country's internet industry, network availability, Internet costs, and restrictions imposed by officials.

When did the Internet appear in Turkmenistan?
During the reign of Saparmurat Niyazov, the Internet was a rarity. At that time, several points of connection to the global network were operating in the country, but only high-ranking officials and security officials, rarely civilian users, had access to it. There were several medium-sized Internet service providers. In the early 2000s, some of the companies were closed, some were merged. As a result, a state monopoly emerged - the service provider Turkmentelecom.

When Berdimuhamedow came to power, Internet cafes appeared in Turkmenistan, and network infrastructure began to develop. The first modern internet cafes appeared in 2007. Nowadays, any resident of the country can connect to the Internet.

How much does the Internet cost in Turkmenistan?
Internet in Turkmenistan is the most expensive among the former USSR countries. Internet service can cost from $35 to $85 per month.

According to the American agency Akamai Technologies, the Internet availability for the country's population is only 20% due to high prices and low salaries. One of the providers in the capital of Turkmenistan has only 15,000 users, despite the fact that the city's population exceeds 1 million people.

The average Internet connection speed for users across the country is below 0.5 Mbps.

Are all Internet services available in Turkmenistan?
In Turkmenistan, many well-known websites and services are blocked, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Vkontakte. Also, messengers such as WhatsApp, Wechat, and Viber are not available. Other sites are also blocked. In most cases, those where criticism of the authorities is published.

In October 2019, access to the Google services was closed, so users lost access to the company's services such as Google Drive, Google Docs, etc.

The authorities are most actively fighting against blocking bypass tools, including anonymizers and VPN services. Previously, users asked specialists in stores selling mobile phones and service centers to install VPN applications on their devices. The authorities took action and began to regularly fine businessmen. As a result, the mobile centers stopped providing such services.

VPN Fight
Turkmenistan authorities are fighting against VPN services due to the popularity of the technology among Internet users who do not tolerate blocking of major foreign sites. The government uses equipment from a German company to filter traffic.

All these actions only increased the popularity of blocking bypass technologies. Over the same period, the number of VPN-related searches in Turkmenistan increased by 577%.