The Moscow Times reports that Turkmenistan has begun to allow private citizens to connect to the internet. The national internet provider, Turkmentelekom, said on Thursday that it has been connecting up to 20 homes a day since the announcement, mainly in the capital city of Ashgabat. It has a waiting list of 2000 people.
Previously internet access was restricted to government employees, diplomatic posts and offices of major international companies.
The average monthly salary in Turkmenistan is $200, so it is unlikely that many can afford the price of a home connection, nor is it known if the government will block any websites. Surfing the net will cost around $1/hr on top of a monthly charge of $8. The initial installation costs $42. Turkmentelekom is also offering a dial-up connection to users but this is reported to be extremely slow, which will frustrate many web surfers.
Russian’s largest internet provider MTS has also launched a new high speed wireless service in the country. They are covering Ashgabat, Balkanabat (former Nebitdag) and Turkmenbashi (former Krasnovodsk). This will create some much needed competition for the national provider.
Turkmenistan already has their own version of Google.tm but the market holds potential for Russian providers such as Yandex. As a former USSR satellite, the population of just over 5m speak Terkmen, Russian, Uzbek and Dari. The ccTLD for the country is .TM and is available to foreign owners but requires a minimum 10yr registration period.