Lebanese telecom companies like Alfa are so excited about their new 100 megabyte package, a pathetically tiny amount of bandwidth. The ads are everywhere on websites and on Facebook:
On the highways:
Even in the mountains:
What’s sad about this is that 100 megabytes is just 1/10th of a gigabyte. And most countries don’t even offer plans lower than a gigabyte. For example a basic plan with AT&T in the US gives you 3 gigabytes, that’s 30 times more bandwidth than the Lebanese plan being advertised above.
Even in the Middle Eastern countries like Egypt and the UAE 3G plans begin at 1 gig-1.5 gigs per month. In both countries you can get 3G and several hours of talk time for about $25 per month. But in Lebanon, you’ll pay $20 just for the internet and only 750 megabytes of it. That doesn’t include any talk time, which is outrageously priced at up to 36 cents per minute, the most expensive rate in the region.
In Lebanon, I barely talk 1 hour, use a minuscule amount of 3G bandwidth and still pay over $100 per month. That’s 4 times the total bill in Egypt for a fraction of the services.
But now Lebanese phone companies want us to think “we only need” a fraction of normal internet usage.
Sadly most Lebanese will be happy with this new plan, precisely because they have been trained to expect less. Simply put, high prices force the population to use less internet. The government may think it’s making a lot of money–about $2 billion per year to be precise. But in the long term, they are only dumbing down Lebanese internet usage and our participation in a technological platform that will be a pillar of future economic growth.