Saturday, September 4, 2010

No more Virtual Private Networks in Oman? TSA floats VPN ban for individuals. Meanwhile, Blue City plans the sell out...

It had to happen.

Tired of not being able to use (or at least recharge) skype? Want to watch streamed TV from the USA? Like the idea of surfing the net anon from Newark instead of Ruwi with a visible Internet address?

In the past, the answer was a VPN.

Virtual Private Network. Cheap ones were quickly blocked, but several commercial ones specifically advertised the ability to defeat Oman's filters.

VPN. A quirk of the internet protocol that allowed you to to establish an encrypted "pipe" to the servers of the civilised world (USA, Denmark, UK, Canada...) free of Omantel internet censors, snoops, etc. Want to go to Big Tits Unlimited?

In Oman a VPN was essential if the thumbnails of Google were too limiting.

This is just a Ramadan sensitive example. Try googling "censored big tits" yourself!

Well, no more, according to the Omani Telecom Authority [TSA], via Global Voices Online's Mohammed Al Modawwin

Oman: VPN Ban Soon
posted by Mohammed Al Modawwin on Sep 03, 2010

categories: Feature, Oman, law, regulation
In the latest episode of internet censorship in Oman, the Telecom Regulation Authority of Oman has announced its plans to completely ban the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and would require companies to acquire the TRA's permission before they can use them. The new regulation has not been passed yet and has been posted by the TRA online for public consultation.

The use of VPN by consumers has increased over the years as it is the only way for internet users in Oman to use VoIP services - which have been banned in Oman for a number of years now. Some VPN protocols such as PPTP are already completely blocked in Oman and providers of other VPN solutions are increasingly discovered by the ISP and are blocked on individual basis.

The use of VPN in the past has been a gray area in the country as the law does not permit the any unauthorized use of encryption, but the new draft regulations will explicitly make the use of VPN officially illegal for the private use of individuals.

Companies on the other hand will be able to use VPN upon completing a special form to be adopted by the TRA and acquiring its approval. Upon submitting the VPN use form the company would have to provide the following details:

Details of the user of the VPN. (Not clear if they are asking for details of individual users, or the company).
Explanation of the purpose for which the VPN will be used.
Details of the IP address of the source and destination of the communication.
Article 3 of the regulation specifies that the TRA may reject any application without providing reasons for its rejection.

The regulations are now up for public consultation, but it is unlikely for this to result in a change in the core ban specified in it as as the prohibition of VPN is in accordance with Oman's general policy against the use of encryption and the majority of the uses of VPN by private users in Oman are uses which are banned anyway by other regulations such as VoIP or merely avoiding the censorship of ISPs.

Well, quite.

OmanHel has been blocking Skype for years, because they, ah, don't like losing millions of dollars in international phone calls.

They have also been blocking "" for ages too, because, ummm, obviously, no one in Oman is allowed to look at digital images of really big mammary glands from Sp. Homo Sapiens, etc etc etc.

All this was easily avoidable. If you had the IT skills (or access to same) of a nintendo trained 11 years old. I've posted on this before.

But all this big titted cheap phone call encrypted enabling glory is now to be illegal.

And even worse, very effectively blocked by the filters [One of the reasons for my recent quiescence dear readers].

Great. You will soon be breaking the law if you surf in a way that the Omani authorities can't read along side you.

And, to think, we laughed at UAE banning text messages from Blackberries. LOL... WEEP.

So that's OK then.

Meanwhile, in other news,

Lavishly recompensed Blue City magnate & property development expert par excellence (and super-talented marketing talent spotter) Anees Al Zedjali has apparently come up with a cunning plan for his new UAE masters to repay some of the vast foreign debt (ie theirs):

Sell the fantastic land His Majesty graciously sold them (well, actually, mainly sold to HH Minister of Culture & Heritage, via Cyclone and BCC1) at a huge discount

Wow. What a business genius.

At least according to someone who shuld know and is willing to talk to the press Suketu Sanghvi, senior manager at Essdar (Essdar, 35-percent owned by the ruler of Dubai Sh. Maktoum's investment company Dubai Holding, which bought Blue City's $655.5 million Class A debt via a tender offer earlier in June as part of investment in its Gulf-focused distressed debt fund.) :

"Transactions in the distressed and special situations space go through cycles in each country and as such volumes of such transactions may significantly rise in some parts of the world and may drop in other parts " Suketu Sanghvi, senior managing director of structuring and investments at Essdar told Reuters.

"...people who have good understanding of local and regional markets on legal and financial implications of enforcement, work outs, restructuring and refinancing can take some wise investment decisions in the space."

Essdar, which has an asset management and corporate finance advisory business, was presented with a restructuring plan by Blue City's borrower and the firm is in the process of reviewing the plan, Sanghvi said.

"We are in discussions with the note holders what to do with it (restructuring plan). The plan provides for the sale of a significant part of the land," he said.

An hour from Oman's capital Muscat, Blue City was touted as Oman's biggest real estate project but it stalled amid dismal sales and clashes between shareholders.

So, thats alright then.

Let's let the UAE build Oman's new Emerald city for 200,000 people. Maybe they at least will take the project seriously, having put their own borrowed cash into it...


  1. I want the Blue City project to work out really.

    I believe the debt was more or less from partners rather than the project itself. But then, I don't have a forensic accounting degree or anything.

    I DO hope it works out. It would be lovely way to focuss on the region.

  2. There will always be work arounds to this ban, other ways to hide traffic. The harder the state censors play, the more sophisticated the technology becomes.

    and if you are in oman and cant get to that link use

    they are great you pay 85 USD per yr, and they provide you with 3 servers UK and USA. use it for SKYPE, or anything you want :P

  4. Lets hope that the Sultan of Dubai’s Essdar lasts longer in Oman than another of the companies he controls through Dubai Holdings the previously pristine Yiti

  5. I cannot believe that I have been criminalised for wanting to watch my two year old son grow up on video.

    I wouldn't even mind if Omantel offered something comparable to video skype.

  6. man i hope oman burns and sink to the bottom of th ocean

  7. Shame on these guys.
    World is moving along with technological growth.
    Here , they r trying to go backwards for money..

  8. Any word on whether this has been enforced as a law yet or when they plan to enforce it?


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