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Palestinians Face Limits on Internet, Cell Phones

Daoud Kuttab reports on the restrictions and limits on cell phone and wireless internet use faced by Palestinians, and the importance of full membership in the International Telecommunications Union.
Palestinian Public Works and Housing Minister Abdel-Rahman Zidan (R) of Hamas speaks on his cell phone at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Jenin November 29, 2006. Israeli authorities on Wednesday released one of the Hamas government ministers it detained after gunmen from the Gaza Strip abducted an Israeli soldier in June, witnesses said. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman  (WEST BANK)

Whenever I travel from Jordan to the state of Palestine, I have to use three different cell-phone devices, each with a different SIM card. I need to keep my regular Zain Jordanian cell and therefore I put it on phone roaming. But in Palestine I need to use two other cell phones.  Jawwal, the leading Palestinian cell company is a must whenever you are anywhere in Palestine; most people have Jawwal numbers and to ask them to call any other service provider would be a financial burden on them.  Palestine does have a second provider, wataniya, but this new provider doesn’t have the same agreement with Zain as Jawwal, which allows you to receive calls from Jordanian Zain subscribers when you are in Palestine without extra charge.

But Jawwal, which has good signals in places like Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah, flashes out of service literally the moment after you cross the Bethlehem or Qalandia checkpoints into Jerusalem. In Jerusalem the only cell-phone service providers are Israeli. I therefore have a cellcom number where the cost of the calls are slightly less expensive than Israel’s leading cell-phone company, Pelephone. Both Israeli telephone operators work throughout the occupied state of Palestine but in some hills of Ramallah their service is not so great.

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