On Saturday night, we went to see "Syriana," a movie about oil-fueled political and corporate intrigue set in an oil-rich kingdom.
Then on Sunday, with the plot lines fresh in my head, I happened across fellow VoIP blogger Ted Wallingford's blog entry, Vonage customers stymied in Qatar.
Qatar is an prosperous, oil-rich and modern Middle Eastern nation of some 865,000 people. That's one of their offshore oil rigs.
Reading Ted's thread, I noticed he had linked to a Vonage Forum thread in which a number of Vonage customers in that region who had been using Vonage to complete inexpensive calls back to the States were grousing that their calls have indeed been blocked as of late.
Some posters to this "Loss of VoIP in Qatar" thread claimed that when they called local Qatar ADSL provider Qtel seeking more information, they were told that because of some cables being down, bandwidth available to the network infrastructure had been reduced and VoIP was temporarily blocked as a move to save some packets.
Apparently, though, the situation has not been quickly resolved. There are a number of theories floating around, including the one that this blocking was not a bandwidth-economizer to bridge a tech glitch, but part of a strategy on Qtel's part to keep lucrative long-distance phone revenue for themselves.
Now, there are murmurings that the U.S. Ambassdador to Qatar should be contacted to draft a complaint letter.
Just this morning, a Vonage Forum Member named Oash posted the following:
"Before coming here to this country, I have checked if they have high speed and DSL facilities, therefore I have made my decision that I will be still connected to home (USA) where my wife and my kids are. I have called QTEL, and the response was that they have a technical problem and they are working on fixing it. The problem is not fixed and I am with the suggestion of calling the US Embassy, The Internet provider here in Qatar is dealing with their costumer in a very strange relationship as if we are slaves to them. This is not acceptable and even if they decided to block or change any service, they need to give us the option either to accept or leave. I have made my decision already to leave the services and cut off the internet if DSL is fully functional. Please count me in if there is a list of emails to be sent to the Embassy."
There are a growing number of similar complaints being posted in that Vonage forum thread, expressing buy-in for a letter to be drafted to the American Embassy in Qatar.
We, of course, will watch and report...