MOSCOW, October 20 (RIA Novosti) — Uzbekistan’s national telecommunications operator Uztelecom has, without warning, severely restricted access to the internet communications systems Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, and Agent Mail.ru, limiting the programs’ functionality to text chats, Russian news portal Lenta.ru reports.
Users have been reporting problems accessing the internet communication services since October 10, noting that video chat becomes virtually impossible after several seconds of use, due to a massive slowdown, Radio Liberty’s Uzbekistan service noted.
Local news sites note that the measures may be related to Uztelecom’s financial difficulties; the internet service provider, which doubles as the country’s telephone monopoly, may be prompting its customers to return to using telephones. Applications like Skype and Viber effectively eliminate the need for internet subscribers to rely on telephones to make calls. The measures may also be related to the country’s desire to further tighten its information security measures; Uzbekistan is widely known for having some of the most restrictive internet access standards in the world.