Regulating Jordan’s Internet cafes
Internet cafes are faced with a real dilemma. It seems that three months ago, the previous cabinet came up with a set of regulations governing the registration and operation of these establishments. The regulations seem to be deeply rooted in the dark holes of control and have no moral or economic justification, in fact the reverse is true.
First, these regulations were issued without any consultation with the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission. Furthermore, taken together the regulations stigmatise the Internet cafes as houses of ill repute, which is absurd. These are electronic libraries and research centres. They open the doors of the world's greatest libraries to every child and student in Jordan.
Imagine the thrill of someone in Amman or Wadi Musa or Irbid having access to the Library of the Congress and thus able to read the latest publications. Think of the value added this brings to our training and educational systems.
In Jordan, where coffee shops and bars are full of teenagers consuming tobacco and alcohol unhindered (when the most liberal of countries has introduced legislation to strictly prohibit the sale of these substances to teenagers), someone has the audacity to say that if you are not 16-years old you can not enter an Internet cafe? Why ban Internet cafes from being within 160 metres from schools?
These are libraries, houses for the less privileged who aspire to communicate, open the global village, walk the same intellectual street of Bill Gates and Steven Hawkins but cannot afford computers (which, incidentally, are still taxed) or the expensive hookup fees that are made high by the still exorbitant JTC rates charged to the ISPs.
The regulations also require the Internet cafes to be of a certain size. Why interfere in their size? How does such backward inexplicable thinking fit into the free market we are all working to create. Who is to say that the bureaucrat, whoever he may be, knows more about business than a businessman?
But wait: The owner has to have a university degree in electrical engineering or programming - this is the worst regulation of them all! In other words, had Bill Gates been a Jordanian citizen he would not be allowed to open an Internet cafe because he did not finish his bachelors degree.
The Internet cafe is not a pharmacy so why impose a similar regulation on it? And why are Internet cafes not allowed to be open past midnight? Students may be doing research or contacting a university professor or a pen pal or even an investor.
The per capita of Jordanians is $1,500; barely the price of a good computer with a modem and the cost of an ISP hookup given, of course that one has a phone. Telephony penetration is still low (less than 12%) in Jordan, which means it takes a long time to have a phone installed.
The Internet cafes are not coffee shops, or bars, or pharmacies, they are houses of learning and intellect. Some may say that these regulations are necessary for safeguarding morality. They are not. Morality is guarded by good upbringing in the home and school; by having intelligent parents and teachers who can answer the difficult questions, not those who bury their heads in the sand and assume the world will stand still.
Besides, such legislation means that only the rich can enjoy immorality but the poor can not. This is jive, not JAVA. Also, to the ultra moralists we say shall we ban satellite TVs also? Stop the import of foreign films and magazines? Maybe ban radio? Someone should help the owners of these Internet cafes immediately or they will soon shut down. Bad regulations harm people. Let's not wait too long! ― (Jordan Times)
By Yusuf Mansur
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)