An internet cafe in Baghdad. Photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region says it will continue to deal directly with international Internet providers, rejecting an ultimatum by the central government in Baghdad to regulate communications in accordance with federal laws.
"That decision by the central government does not apply to Kurdistan," said Karwan Sheikh Raza, head of Kurdistan's post and communication department. “Kurdistan's own ministry of communication is responsible for dealing with foreign companies and we have nothing to do with Baghdad."
He said that Internet price and quality in the autonomous Kurdistan Region differs greatly from the rest of Iraq, and that Erbil itself decides the rules for Internet suppliers in the region.
According to Raza, the Iraqi government provides Internet connections to citizens through local private suppliers, and has imposed heavy taxes on companies that receive services from foreign countries.
"Baghdad has now reduced that tax and in return asked the companies to reduce their prices, too," Raza said. "But the Kurdistan Region hasn't imposed heavy taxes on the companies in the first place and there is no need to reduce it now."
Official data from the department of communication shows that three major companies in the Kurdistan Region are supplying Internet services through deals with foreign companies.
"In each province we have 6-7 smaller companies that supply Internet and this creates competition and reasonable prices," said Raza.
On Tuesday, the Iraqi government gave a two-day ultimatum to all Internet companies to reduce their prices.
"Perhaps that is because in the rest of Iraq the price of Internet services is too high already that is why the Iraqi government has passed such a law," Raza explained.
Meanwhile, Raza said that his department is not fully satisfied with Internet provision in Kurdistan.
"We are not content with the quality and price of Internet here, and in our view they (service providers) have managed to fulfill only 40 percent of people's needs," he said.