Monday, July 24, 2006
Israeli bombardment leaves telecom infrastructure in tatters
By Osama Habib
Daily Star staff - dailystar.com.lb
BEIRUT: Lebanon's mobile networks and satellite antennas are being targeted by Israeli warplanes, causing at least $10 to $15 million in material damage and a drop in the revenues of the telecom sector, Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamade said on Sunday. "We are still assessing the damages but we estimate the material losses are close to $15 million so far," Hamade told The Daily Star over the telephone.
Israeli warplanes have hit transmitters, relay stations and satellite stations in Beirut, the South, the North and the Bekaa Valley since the war started 12 days ago.
Israeli warplanes bombarded a satellite and antenna station in Kesrouan on Saturday, killing an employee of the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation and destroying the television antenna.
The strikes targeted transmission towers for a number of private television stations, including LBCI and Future, as well as a number of private radios in Fatqa and further up on mount Sannine, police said.
In Fatqa, television footage showed a cloud of thick black smoke billowing into the sky from the towers which were engulfed in flames. A truck was also seen burning.
Transmission towers for television stations, including Hizbullah's Al-Manar and the privately run New TV, as well as mobile telephone networks were also destroyed in Terbol in Northern Lebanon, police added.
Observers say that the Israeli forces want to cut all communication links between Lebanon and the outside world and to sever mobile communication lines among the Lebanese.
Hamade said teams from the ministry are repairing some of the damage in different areas.
But the minister declined to give more details about the repairs in some areas, fearing that the Israeli forces may target these stations and satellites.
"I don't want to identify the areas in which technical teams are working because the Israelis might bombard them," he said.
Some Lebanese said the mobile lines in some parts of the North and South of the country were inoperative due to the intense bombardment.
Hamade said that the Telecommunication Ministry has instructed the two mobile operators in Lebanon, MTC Touch and Alfa, to extend the duration of the pre-paid cards to ease the pressure on residents.
"This will of course affect the revenues from telecoms, which is the main source of income for the government."
Total revenues from the telecom sector are more than $1.3 billion a year, including the mobile and land-line networks.
But the minister said all the land-line services are still intact.
The government was hoping to privatize the telecom sector this year as part of efforts to reduce the $40 billion public debt.
For more that 10 years, the government of Lebanon prevented the development of Internet Services in such a way that in 2006, the Lebanese people still have no fast and serious way to connect to the Internet... The main reason for this, is that the Telecom sector represents most of the country's income. So the government preferred - and still prefers - to force the people to use only dial-up connection as long as possible so it doesn't disturb its budget. This has been going on for more that 10 years now.
This is a HUGE CRIME committed - during 10 years - upon the Lebanese people and the country's economy. The government has absolutely no excuse for not finding another way to resolve this. In December 2005, the government said fast DSL connection will be available in April 2006, but once again the government was not up to the task and failed to fulful it's promise. The latest rumors were talking about some kind of limited Bandwidth offers that would be available in September. This doesn't resolve the problem, because this "Bandwidth limitation" is NOT acceptable. This is just another sign of the "bad will" and stupidity of a government that proved that it cannot improve, and probably deserves only one thing: TOTAL DESTRUCTION.