My Website Got Blocked by Omantel

Censored

In Oman, the currently only Internet Service Provider in the country, Omantel, has the ability to block any website it desires, we assume that this is done to censor pornographic websites and websites that attack the current government. We do not know if this is an automated process or one manually managed by actual employees of the company. I am not sure on what legal basis it has this authority to censor website because I do not have access to all the laws from here.

Anyway, sometime last week, I discovered that my website, myITLawyer, got blocked by Omantel making it inaccessible from Oman. I do not know when exactly in got blocked because I have been away from the country since the beginning of this year. Once Omantel blocks a website, there isn’t anything really that you can do about it other than send an email to an account called “admin@omantel.com”. I did that, but instantly the email bounced back indicating that it could not reach a certain recipient.

I decided to make a complaint to the Telecommunication Regulation Authority as it is responsible for receiving complaints against ISPs. Its Consumer Guide specifies that you have to give the operator 15 days to resolve the issue before you make a complaint. During this period, I asked a friend of mine in Oman to call Omantel and tell them (1) to unblock the website, and (2) that their email account has a problem. There is no special line that you can call to solve censorship issues, the help desk person offered no solution other than “to send a message to the specified email account” even though we told him that messages bounce back. After I heard this from my friend I sent another email to that account and the message again bounced back.

When the 15 days passed I sent my complaint to the TRA who responded after one business day saying that they forwarded the complaint to Omantel and that they will look into the issue. A whole week passed, my website remained blocked, and I haven’t heard from anything, I emailed the TRA again this morning, and then responded within hours saying that my website is now unblocked, and now it is. Of course I never heard ANYTHING from Omantel at all during this period.

It took me exactly ONE MONTH to get my website unblocked since the day I sent my first email to Omantel. I expect that it had already been blocked for a month before I discovered it.

Currently, the only way to have your website unblocked if it gets blocked by Omantel is to follow the procedure I followed, if the TRA did not solve my problem my next step was to take legal action against the TRA at the Administrative Court.

I cannot believe how ridiculous this censorship business is. In October last year Omantel blocked Gmail, Blogger, and a number of other Google websites by mistake. Imagine the damage blocking Gmail did to businesses and individuals. My website was blocked for a whole month in which I obviously had to continue paying for hosting. It is unbelievable that Omantel seems to be totally unaccountable and has absolute authority to block and unblock whatever it wishes randomly.

In the age of user generated content attempting to censor the internet is just totally useless. Anyone in Oman RIGHT NOW can use any search engine and find a porn blog in less than 5 minutes, you don’t need to be a computer genius to do it and it is IMPOSSIBLE to censor everything when a new site is created every second.

It is just unbelievable.

8 thoughts on “My Website Got Blocked by Omantel”

  1. I don't know if you're aware but Skype is blocked by Omantel as well. I was back in Oman about 2 months ago and tried to log in but for some reason nothing happened. When I tried going to Skype's official website, it also was blocked. I sent an email to the address you mentioned above and although my email did go through, I received no reply.

    I suspect Omantel realised how much money their losing if their customers use Skype to make practically free international calls and decided to wipe out the competition.

    It just doesn't seem right that they have such powers. Shouldn't the TRA be responsible for ''censorship'', and I use the word censorship loosely because like you said, porn can be found by a 5 year old!

  2. “Currently, the only way to have your website unblocked if it gets blocked by Omantel is to follow the procedure I followed”

    for me I have got some sites unblocked in a matter of minutes, you just need to get to the right department , and by the way they work 24 hours.

    in my opinion, they might have blocked your website because it is sharing its IP with other websites which are blacklisted.

    this will happen in shared hosting plans.

    when you sent email to admin[a t ] omantel dot com, was your email a myitlawyer.com email?
    If yes then your website is for sure listed in spam blacklists.

    kind regards

  3. Hi Kibtar, thanks for passing by.

    I am not on a shared hosting package. I run a number of websites from a single server and yet only one domain name got blocked. I also used Gmail to send my email message.

    There is unfortunately no “official” line to use to reach the “right department”. If you scream and shout you might eventually reach the person in charge, but from person experience that is very rare to happen and you must have a lot of patience for it. The person in charge is very unlikely to be available outside official working hours.

  4. The Arabic countries have certain laws that do not obey the common sense because of their religious motivatin. I don't understand why you were so pissed of. I mean, I know that the Arabic countries have their own laws that are very rigid and not so friendly if you get my point.
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  5. Skype is till blocked as of today June 15th 2010. Not only the skype.com domain is blocked but also it is impossible to make calls over skype. the chat works for some strange reason….
    Of course, also for skype calls, there are ways around the Omantel blocking… so why block in the first place other then saving the monopoly on international calls….

  6. i need skype coz i need to contact my family in India<< makin calls thru omantel card is damn expensive!!  if everyone bans omantel, then they will have to close down their company!! i feel thts the right thing to do!!

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