Algeria approves 'snoopers' charter' as government shakes-up telecoms

Algeria approves 'snoopers' charter' as government shakes-up telecoms
The Algerian government passed a controversial new law on Wednesday which enshrines the authority of the national 'communications regulator' and allows private companies to host internet services.
2 min read
29 December, 2016
Algeria has one of the lowest internet usage rates and highest levels of surveillance [Universal]
Algeria passed a new telecoms law on Wednesday that will simultaneously introduce the widespread monitoring of international phone calls and open up the country's nationalised communications market to private companies.

New internet providers will be allowed to operate in a market traditionally monopolised by Algeria Telecom, which will instead gain the opportunity to transfer and monitor all phone calls abroad.

The Council of Ministers, headed by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, voted in favour of a process referred to as 'local-loop unbundling', which allows other operators to access the national telecommunications exchange.

"As part of the development of electronic communications, it has been proposed to implement the principle of local-loop unbundling," the Presidency said in a statement.

A copy of the new communications law has not been circulated, however a draft copy of the law was published by ALG24 on December 17. It is expected that the details of the law, which were drawn up long in advance, will not have changed dramatically from this draft.

The council voted to "strengthen the authority of the post and electronic communications regulator" through a new Radio Frequency Management Agency, which will monitor communications.

Bouteflika is also reported to have called for the development of online services and electronic communications, particularly in terms of speeding up internet speeds.

Algeria routinely has one of the worst download speeds and internet penetration rates in the world, in a country where nearly 45% of the population are under the age of 24.

According to the American internet consultancy group, Akamai, only 2.5% of the Algerian population were using broadband speeds exceeding 4 megabytes per second. The global average internet speed by comparison is 5.6 megabytes per second. The only other two countries in the world with such a low rate were Pakistan and Venezuela.