About 60% of Internet service providers in Lebanon are unlicensed. In a last-ditch effort to regularize the situation, the Ministry of Telecommunications is trying to organize this illegal Internet service and connect it to the national network. 

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No less than 60% of internet service providers in Lebanon are illegal and do not have a license. It would be a truism to point out that Internet access is vital for the majority of Lebanese people. Web access is widespread in Lebanon, with 76% of the population having access to it, while one-third of the world’s population does not have this privilege (according to figures from 2022).

In a final effort to regularize and increase transparency, the Ministry of Telecommunications proposes to organize the networks of all illegal distributors in order to connect them to the official Lebanese network.

In fact, and as a reminder, the Internet service is provided to citizens by Ogero, the public and exclusive internet provider in Lebanon, through licensed companies (107 companies in total, such as IDM, Inconet, etc.), or through mobile operators Touch and Alfa, which sell 3G and 4G services, or through unlicensed companies, commonly called neighborhood distributors. The latter represent 60% of the market. It should be noted that the legal access providers go through Ogero, while the illicit ones are not controlled by the official provider.  They have their own networks.

The licensed companies buy the Internet from Ogero and resell it, either to individuals or to companies. Nothing illegal so far! However, some people buy Internet services from these licensed companies and resell them in neighborhoods or villages without a license and thus monopolize access to the internet.

Regulation through a decree

“In principle, these arrangements are not regulatory, but it happened de facto,” confided the Caretaker Minister of Telecommunications, Johnny Corm, to This is Beirut. He added that this was the reason for the issuing of Decree 9458. “This Internet distribution was not recognized in Lebanon, we regulated it through a decree by specifying its terms because it had become unavoidable,” said Corm. “We allowed these distributors to work and contract the Internet directly with the ministry via Ogero for a period of three years. The contract with these neighborhood distributors is a maintenance contract which stipulates that the network belongs to the state and that maintenance is their responsibility. The distributor will now be required to give the ministry the maps of its distribution network so that it can be linked to the national network,” stated Corm.

The objective: to stop the monopoly

Is the objective to organize this illegality instead of stopping it? In this regard, the Minister stresses that the goal is “to prevent the district distributor from continuing to be an Internet provider enjoying a monopoly and free pricing. The objective,” adds the minister, “is that the network becomes public and that each subscriber can choose the provider he wants, regardless of the region in which he lives or works. For the moment, this is not yet the case, but we are working on it.”

Apart from the economic repercussions in terms of losses incurred by the state (exclusive owner of the Internet network), these violations of the law should have been punishable by penalties and not by integration into the network.

But Lebanon is the country of miracles… Even illegality manages to become legal!