Internet in Iraq started in 1999 with the Uruklink ISP being founded during Saddam Hussein’s rule, thus it was tightly controlled and was mainly for research purposes. It’s estimated that only 25,000 people had access to the internet, and with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, An ISP called Halasat started offering internet using grid technology (which uses antenna dishes and can receive data from 4Km distance), This continued until Earthlink ISP (entered in 2005) and Al-Jazeera (founded in 2004), then in 2007, Iraqi ISPs (mainly Earthlink) created a weird, inefficient and bad system called “The Reseller System”. This system was created in order to avoid criticism and hate, and we will talk about how it works shortly. This system is unorganized and thus allows ISPs (mainly Earthlink and Al- Jazeera) to expand rapidly in the Iraqi provinces (Iraq has 18 provinces) both ISPs having coverage in 15 provinces (except Kurdistan which has 3 provinces, excluding Halabja since there is more talking about its independence). Wars such as the Iraqi civil war (2006-2008) and the following wars such as War in Iraq and the period of destabilization during the Iraq War resulted in this system being rooted in the Iraqi internet infrastructure (Keep in mind that the second highest resource of national income in Iraq is the Internet).
Iraq’s internet problem consist of three parts : Reseller system, ISP companies, and The corrupted government (Ministry of Communications).
The Reseller System
The internet tower system started working in 2007 in Iraq, it uses wireless connections (PPPOE) to broadcast internet over a certain area using devices called “sectors” which are antennas that broadcast the internet and can reach a maximum distance of 500m or more depending on the type used. Problems arise when this system is used in cities because of the large number of buildings (blocking the signal) and the large number of internet and cellphone towers close to each other (causing signal interference). This makes the internet speed drop strongly, making the average internet speed in Iraq 0.80 Mbps.
The way of distribution is that there is a main tower with a device called a “Repeater”. This tower will provide internet to itself to other 2 or more towers (using optical fibers) and these towers are called “Sub-repeaters” which in turn will provide internet to themselves and other towers (using optical fibers). Some sub-repeaters offer internet to other towers using dishes (usually used in city outskirts to avoid signal being blocked by buildings) while other towers use optical fibers directly from the ISP company.
Internet companies, in an effort to avoid criticism and backlash, invented a system in which each internet tower built is owned by a so called “reseller” . A reseller’s job is to basically maintain the tower and its equipment and to scratch the internet activation card in order to activate internet for the user. The latter being that the user can scratch the internet activation card by themselves and activate internet without the help of the reseller.
Now we know that resellers maintain a tower and its equipment, and scratch internet activation cards (which they buy from a company office), Problem arises when they sell internet to users in which they impose an 100% commission ratio on the internet they sell (for example below is the internet cards prices for EarthLink telecommunications and prices with the reseller’s commission).
The best internet subscription of these (business with $90-$120 price) has a download speed of 3Mbps (375KB/s) which is really slow compared to Afghanistan’s average 7Mbps download speed, and world’s average download speed of 76Mbps.
The reason for the 100% commission ratio is due to the fact that electricity bills for the tower and maintenance of the tower equipment is all paid by the reseller that owns the tower, since the ISPs don’t pay money to maintain them or provide electricity for them (1 ampere in Iraq for a month is for $16.7, since one tower needs at least 5 amperes, that is $83.5 each month), And due to the fact that the unemployment rate in Iraq is high (17% for males and 27% for females), it’s hard to pay the internet bills considering that other countries get 12Mbps unlimited for only $10.
A lot of internet resellers hired by ISP companies know nothing about internet and how to maintain their tower equipment, below is a picture of a reseller’s tower equipment soaked in debris.
Check the following link for more pictures: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=172655140990766&id=109871470602467
It’s also worth mentioning that the metal used to produce internet towers parts is Iranian metal.
The ISP Companies
We have talked about two ISP companies earlier, Earthlink and Al- Jazeera, We will focus mainly on Earthlink due to the fact its one of the oldest (fourth oldest after Al- Jazeera, Halasat and Uruklink) and most popular ISP provider in Iraq, every city or village in Iraq has Earthlink’s Internet tower in it and it has a coverage of 15 provinces .
EarthLink was founded in 1994 in USA to provide dial-up Internet service and had more than 1 million customers by the late 1990s. Earthlink is still providing internet service in USA.
Earthlink internet subscription prices in USA is high compared to other competitors such as CenturyLink.
And from what is mentioned above, we can grasp that Earthlink is an American ISP that opened business in Iraq (offering really low speeds compared to what they offer in USA, already mentioned earlier). It’s not clear whether it was brought by the US army when it invaded Iraq back in 2003, or it just decided to move to Iraq after the invasion.
Earthlink’s history in Iraq is filled with failures, since Iraq has too many corrupt politicians and they won’t allow anyone to upgrade infrastructure without them getting millions of dollars at least.
Earthlink tried to invest in fiber optic cable technology, and tried to build infrastructure using the help of a Kurdish company called Newroz Telecom in 2010 which was canceled by the government in 2012 in fear of data being leaked to Kurds and Turkey (even through all internet in the world passes through several cables through tens of countries without data being breached, meaning the claim was just a lie since corrupt politicians didn’t receive money from the project and was handed to an Iranian company that didn’t complete the project) and the company fined Iraqi government with a $220 million fine which was reduced to $170 million, then later on in 2015, Earthlink invested in fiber optic technology with the help of a Thai company called Symphony but again the project was canceled for the same reason of fears of data being leaked to the Kurds and then accused the company to be Kurdish when it was in fact a Thai company. Symphony had an anti corruption policy which caused the corrupt politicians to cancel the project since they wouldn’t get any money from it (also the government asked the company to pay the $170 fine imposed by Newroz Telecom, which reduced the percentage of money going back to the government since the company will have to replenish the $170 they will pay) . In 2018, Earthlink again tried to invest in fiber optic technology with Symphony and the same claim about data breach was made and the project stopped.
Its also worth mentioning that in 2016, Earthlink and Symphony worked on FTTN project (fiber optic cable), and at the end of 2017 it was finished to 93% percent, but was halted at 2018. Problems arose when this project was FTTN, not FTTH, which the MOC signed for and it didn’t mention the internet speed! And it was so vague, Earthlink and Symphony would take 60% of the earnings, 23% for the government, and 17% for the resellers (it doesn’t need resellers as FTTH can be delivered to individual houses without resellers help).
The fiber optic technology (FTTH which stands for Fiber to the home) is much better than wireless technology that the internet tower uses since there will be no interference and blocking of the internet signal and no noise in the air as it will be transferred by cables so there is no loss in internet quality and fiber optic technology can hold fast internet speeds up to 1Gbps! .
Ministry of Communications (Corrupt government)
Where do we even start? Iraq is know for being one of the most corrupted countries, due to the fact that its in a continuous state of war.
Iraq has ranked 162 out of 179 in corruption scale (CPI) for 2019.
So generally speaking, Iraq is very corrupt and would not improve without corrupt politicians being paid with millions of dollars each year to allow investments to exist.
As we have mentioned above, Earthlink’s investment in fiber optical technology back in 2010 was stopped by the government due to security concerns, But we didn’t mention who stopped it, Its Nouri al-Maliki, the famous Iraqi thief that almost no one in Iraq likes. He was the prime minister of Iraq in 2006-2014, and during this period he managed to steal a whooping $500 billion! Supplying Iran with $400 billion and keeping $100 billion for himself (a lot of which came from financial aid from other countries to rebuild Iraq).
The rest of Earthlink’s attempts at providing fiber optic internet was sabotaged because politicians want a huge amount of money every year so they allow the project to exist.
Speaking of sabotage, Iraq faces a weird problem in which nearly every 2 months one of the source cables that feed internet into Iraq gets cut without providing the reason, It became so frequent42 Iraqis started linking it (jokingly) to sharks and that even if the internet comes from space or is in land the shark will follow it to bite it.
The reason the every 2 months Iraq’s internet source cable gets cut is due to two reasons:
1- It’s one of the ISPs trying to sabotage other ISP (or ISPs) service.
2- ISPs haven’t paid the corrupt politicians in time and so the politicians start cutting those cables gradually until the service completely fails and the company is forced to pay them money.
This caused a high drop in speed every 2 months (or even less) for several ISPs in Iraq (and users in turn suffer), you can check Uptime for Iraqi ISPs here: http://akonet.info/
And I don’t think you find all of them up, some of them have to be down, as politicians request money randomly and they will cut the cable if not offered shortly. If you dig even deeper, you will find that cable is often cut at the same time as a new Ministry of Communications Minister is elected, which means he wants to gather as much money as possible before the next elections come in.
(We will refer to the Ministry of Communications as MOC in order to preserve space.)
Moving on, we arrive at the second problem, the 1Mbps price sold by the MOC is really expensive ($60 dollars for 1Mbps!) and MOC forces ISP companies to buy internet bandwidth from MOC so ISP are not allowed to get bandwidth on their own from other sources (MOC sells 1Mbps for $60 while buying it for $0.5) and we can see below:
As we can see that other Arabian countries sell it for a much lower prices than Iraqi MOC (MOC selling 1Mbps for more than 11x of the other countries price), and going even as low as $2 for 1Mbps. It’s good to mention that Iraq buys internet from Iran instead of Jordan, even though Jordan is much cheaper (70% of Iraqs internet comes from Iran, while Iran only supplies Iraq with 10% of internet bought from Iran by Iraq).
Moving on, Did you know Iraq will receive 4G in 2021? (supposedly, if nobody spoils it). Yes, Iraq still doesn’t have 4G! Anyway, Zain Telecommunications signed a contract with MOC for building 4G and Zain paid $233 million for 8 years duration. Isn’t that too expensive? That further proves how the government is corrupt, since in other countries, Zain and other companies paid less than $233 million for a duration of 20 years! The corrupt politicians are really hungry!
And even when Zain paid $233 dollars for the contract (for 8 years) it got stopped by the government 1 month later! Asking them to pay their “old debts” to the government, they even want more than $233 million!
The Zain CEO stated that he “knows” that the increase in prices compared to other countries is because “Iraq need the extra money to rebuild” which is a lie proven by looking upon Mosul, and how it was only rebuilt when its people paid and worked by themselves to rebuild it. While MOC claims it’s a self-financing ministry and needs the extra money to pay for its employees which is a really dumb excuse when we consider the bad quality of internet distribution and speed.
Later after the interview the Zain CEO then stated that 4G will be as slow as 3G, since the 1Mbps price will remain without getting cheaper.
In July of 2020, the Iraqi MOC minister announced that he will reduce internet subscription prices (he said nothing about Mbps prices, which is the main problem why internet is bad), and we can already figure out removing the Earthlink’s Light+ and replacing it with price of Earthlink’s Economy+ will only increase speed by 10KB/s which is useless. The MOC minister said that the changes for the prices will come in the first day of September of 2020, but as this date approached closer (its August 28th at the time of typing this), some info leaked about what they have planned, turns out that instead of lowering the subscription or Mbps prices, he actually increased it! When Earthlink leaked that it will remove the Light+ subscription which was being sold for $25 and force users to upgrade to the $33 Economy+ subscription, which literally had 0% difference and that’s why people went for Light+.
And from here we conclude the Iraq’s internet condition will never change, most Iraqis now are waiting for Starlink internet to help them get a good internet (which might not be available in Iraq since Elon Musk stated that the project needed government approval to function and corrupt government will probably not allow this project to exist).
We also conclude that the Internet, the least thing that Iraqis care about, is corrupt enough to sink the USA into the dark age, One can only estimate how corrupt is the other parts and ministries of the Iraqi government.
Speculation went that 2020’s “strike operation for improving internet” which caused Iraq’s internet to crumble, was staged by Earthlink with the help of the government to cut internet off other ISPs so it can expand even stronger than ever, as it was the least effected by the the whole operation while nearly all other ISPs went down during it.
Strike operation for improving internet was a movement by MOC in order to stop ISPs from buying internet for cheap from Kurdistan ($3 for Mbps) and force them to buy Mbps from MOC which is bloody expensive. Earthlink expanded so much during this operation it didn’t even bother to buy more Mbps and Earthlink’s internet speed went into negative bytes (if that even exists).
And thus between the corrupt Iranian influenced government, wars, inefficient methods, lies and high prices, it all takes its toll on the Iraqi internet users, and with growing need of internet in the world and especially in Iraq, its expected that no improvement will occur to the Iraq internet service for at least 10 years from now, especially with Earthlink now siding with the government in trying to increase its influence. And it’s said that the following two years will be the worst for Iraq’s internet, even thought there is an uprising and news of gathering to face MOC and ISPs for their bad service, it has been already done many times in the past few years and it had no effect at all, as the internet is the second highest resource of national income and corrupt politicians will thrive in it nonstop.
Remember Earthlink? It’s known for getting hacked more than any other ISP. On August 16th of 2020, a hacker changed one of the links that lead to the file storage service (that is flooded with cracked and pirated movies and games and programs) so that the links redirects you to “Never gonna give you up” song, you just got rickrolled:
Then On August 25th of 2020, it got hacked and the hacker sent $100 thousand to each reseller (Earthlink has about 10 thousand resellers), which further proves how much money the company has:
And then he proceeded to disable the activation page that the reseller uses in order to activate internet for his users. Every time you enter to the page two things might happen:
1-You are met with a breathtaking text saying “Your mom gay”:
2- Or you get rickrolled by being sent (redirected) to the song “Never gonna give you up”:
This sparked Iraqi social media into a frenzy, ironically Earthlink started posting articles about how to prevent yourself from getting hacked on that day.
Then again on August 27th, Earthlink got hacked again and the activation page was disabled again. This time the hacker kept the good old “Your mom gay” upon entering the page, but also it redirects to Starlink’s Wikipedia page (as Iraqis have no faith in internet being improved and are waiting for Starlink).