By Karine Kalantarian
The ArmenTel telecommunications monopoly cut off on Tuesday the external communication links of one of Armenia’s largest Internet service providers, accusing it of illegal practices. The extraordinary move left scores of Armenian web sites inaccessible for Internet users.
It was the result of an escalating row between ArmenTel and the Arminco provider, with either party accusing the other of violating its contractual obligations.
ArmenTel’s chief executive, Nikos Georgoulas, told reporters that Arminco was disconnected from the outside world because of its unauthorized use of additional communication channels belonging to the Greek-owned company. He said the practice is tantamount to large-scale “theft.”
The Internet firm, which is the oldest in its kind in Armenia, has denied the allegations. Arminco argues that under Armenian law ArmenTel had to give it one month’s notice before terminating their bilateral contract.
But Georgoulas claimed that Arminco has been repeatedly told about its allegedly illegal actions and ignored the warnings.
The two sides were on Tuesday holding more talks in a bid to find a mutually acceptable solution. The Arminco director, Andranik Aleksanian, refused to comment on them.
The row is the latest in a series of disputes between ArmenTel and local Internet providers. Several of them successfully sued the Armenian subsidiary of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) earlier this year after making similar accusations. They have long argued that ArmenTel’s controversial legal monopoly on telecom services, including the external Internet traffic, stifles the development of information technology in Armenia.
By contrast, Arminco executives enjoyed a warm relationship with ArmenTel’s Greek management until recently. The two companies, for example, set up a joint Internet venture last January. The ensued deterioration of their relations was therefore all the more unexpected to local observers.