Think Of That: December 2004

Think Of That

Some things to think about

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Location: Lebanon

Saturday, December 25, 2004

A thought on Christmas

It’s Christmas today. The long awaited day has finally arrived, bringing along the usual cheerful moods, joyous greetings and festive family gatherings. By family, I don’t imply what the typical meaning of the word would (parents and their children), but its Lebanese interpretation (Parents, children, uncles, aunts, grand parents, friends…etc). I might be blessed with a large and loving family but like the Italians and the Greeks, the majority of Lebanese enjoy celebrating Christmas (or any other holiday, by the way) with their many relatives and friends. It’s a nice tradition, which might turn off some, but I personally find it very enjoyable.

Sadly enough, Christmas has lost its true meaning; it has become an opportunity for businesses to exploit the Santa Claus character and awaken consumers’ desire to spend their hard-earned cash on useless over-priced junk… For those of you who forgot what it’s all about, Christmas is the celebration of our Lord Jesus’ Birth in a small town called Bethlehem in Judea more than two thousand years ago. The gifts that were offered to Him by the three wise men were Gold (symbolizing His Kingly Office), Frankincense (symbolizing His Divinity) and Myrrh* (a symbol of His Suffering and Death)… not a 34” Flat Sony TV bundled with a DVD Player and 5 speakers set!!!

Finally (I hope I don’t sound condescending here), I wish to address all the kind people who thought about the less fortunate and made their life (or at least a few minutes of their life) a little better this Christmas: Christmas comes just once a year but people are in need every other day of the year; you’re doing a great job, keep it up!

*For more information about the first three gifts, click here.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Britain's Outlaw

The British home secretary, David Blunkett, submitted his resignation, two days ago, as he was found guilty of using his authority to speed up his ex-lover’s nanny’s visa application to stay in Britain. He was one of Britain’s most powerful Cabinet secretaries but he had the decency to admit his fault and resign because he used his public office for “private benefits”.

You might be reading these lines and thinking that Mr. Blunkett couldn’t do otherwise - he had to resign. If that’s the case, then you’re definitely not living in Lebanon. This “private benefit” is considered an obvious privilege in the eyes of the politicians of my dear country. In fact, they run for election just to be able to take advantage of their position and do much more than speed up applications. Even voters choose their candidates depending on these individuals’ willingness to quickly resolve their little problems…

I wish we had a few David Blunketts amongst our ministers in Lebanon. He might be considered corrupt in Britain, but he’s surely more honest than most of the politicians over here.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Broadband in Lebanon, at last ? (Part 2)

It seems the Lebanese government has finally decided to give the Lebanese citizen a break and reduce the telecommunication tariffs. In a recent article by The Daily Star* (issued today), the Minister of Telecommunications declared that a bill to lower Lebanon’s Cellular phone tariffs is to be submitted to cabinet in a couple of weeks. It seems that in a few months, “the new government would review plans to reduce land line rates and introduce high speed internet to Lebanon, where most consumers depend on sluggish dial-up services.

At last, a ray of hope, but does this mean that we’re going to have fast, reliable internet access before the end of 2005? Taking into consideration previous delarations by the government concerning any reduction of tariffs, I wouldn’t bet my life on it.
Hopefully, I’m wrong this time.

* The Daily Star article can be found here.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Broadband in Lebanon, at last?

The Internet was first introduced in Lebanon around 1995/96. Back then, we used a slow unreliable dial-up connection that was good for sending emails or chatting at best. Few people used the Internet and it wasn’t a vital means of communication for most of them.

Times have changed since 1995 but sadly, the methods we use to connect to the WWW haven’t, at least not for home users. Don’t get me wrong, dial-up connection is pretty reliable now and you can get a 56kbps download bandwidth, but who wants dial-up when everyone else is using cable or fast ADSL?

Illegal cable internet is available almost anywhere in Beirut for 44USD/month, standard price for all illegal cable internet providers (Makes you wonder, huh?), and it’s a lot faster than dial-up and cheaper in most cases. But it’s still illegal and mostly unreliable, especially in bad weather conditions.

A few weeks ago, a new company (Global Data Services), along with the Ministry of Telecommunications and some local ISPs, introduced a new subscription plan for home users (some kind of wireless link using a receiver installed on the rooftop of your building) from 45USD/month for a 128kbps connection (Notice the 1$ difference with illegal cable) not including the installation fees (around 75USD); and there must be at least 3 subscribers/building or they will not proceed with the installation…

Why do we have to pay twice what users in other countries are paying for an Internet connection at least 4 times faster?

Wouldn’t a large-scale solution be more profitable to the government and more favorable to the end-user?

I wouldn’t know. At least the Internet is still uncensored... or is it?