Oman has fewer Internet users than many of the Arab nations which surround it, but it is one of the smaller territories in the region. Internet restrictions are common.. On a per capita basis, Oman is well-connected to the digital world. While the Internet continues to grow in Oman, however, the state continues to exert considerable control over what individuals can access online. Oman follows the tradition of many Arab nations and strictly monitors Internet use while blocking access to any websites it feels violate the security and moral standards of the state.
History of Oman
Oman is located near the Arabian Peninsula in southwest Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. Technically a Sultanate, Oman is ruled by the Sultan of Oman. While the Sultan has absolute authority over the state, Oman also boasts a parliament which contributes to the process of lawmaking. This type of government has made Oman one of the more stable countries in the Arab region.
Oil is the primary force which drives the Oman economy, but compared to other Arab countries Oman produces less crude. Farming and fishing also provide much of the income earned by the residents of Oman. There has also been an effort by the government to reduce the number of expatriates in the country by training locals to fill previously outsourced jobs.
Internet in Oman
Residents of the Western world have become accustomed to an abundance of Internet providers and telecommunications services. Arriving in Oman, or any Arab region, can be quite a shock when one discovers that most of these countries have a government-controlled monopoly on Internet and mobile phone service.
In Oman the Internet is provided by Omantel, which is 70% owned by the Oman government. It is the only ISP approved for offering Internet service in Oman. As in Qatar and other nearby regions, the majority of people in Oman access the Internet by purchasing prepaid access cards. Recently, more homes are being equipped with postpaid Internet service, but many areas of Oman still use dial-up access. Broadband is available in the more populated areas at a prohibitive cost.
Internet Filtering in Oman
When you control the only game in town where the Internet is concerned, blocking or limiting access to specific websites can be accomplished with a minimum of difficulty. Oman actively blocks web content that it finds to be objectionable. Unfortunately, this can make it difficult for expatriates in the country to use many of the webs services they are accustomed to, and it can also make it harder for locals to stay in touch with relatives who have immigrated to the US, UK, and other countries in the West.
At the present time, Omantel blocks websites including, but not limited to, the following:
- Skype and similar VoIP services. If you plan on using Skype in Oman, think again. Omantel takes a hard stance against Skype and other communications applications because they cannot be easily monitored and also cut into Oman’s telecommunications revenue.
- Gay, Lesbian, and pornographic websites. Sites with this type of content are routinely blocked by Omantel because they violate the moral mandates of the Islamic religion.
- Dating sites. Many dating sites such as PlentyofFish, Match, zoosk, eHarmony & others are considered objectionable because they promote casual relationships, something that is frowned upon in Arab countries.
It is also common to find certain news outlets or political websites routinely blocked by Omantel. If a site contains news or opinion which is believed to oppose the government, it will likely be blocked.
Unblocking Websites in Oman
There is a way that is very effective in unblocking websites in Oman. Using a VPN account like the one offered here can restore your unrestricted access to the Internet in Oman.
A VPN is very effective in allowing Internet users to access Skype, Whatsapp, Viber, and a host of other services like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer which are not available in Oman. A VPN account gives you an added level of security in addition to making these websites available, and that added security is something you will not find when using Oman’s government-owned ISP.