Alongside this campaign, two other campaigns flourished:
#Ontornet & #FastLebanon
#Ontornet is run by respected, neutral people in the Twitterverse. Their objectives are: research, share, create awareness, build momentum, trigger mass reactions to build pressure to implement fast internet & monitor
#FastLebanon on the other hand has proven to be very sinister, here's my story with them:
Upon creating the #FlipTheSwitch campaign, I was approached by #FastLebanon repeatedly to join their cause. They insisted that I join their ranks, and support their 20,000+ strong Facebook community. Naturally, I was skeptical, as #FastLebanon was spending thousands of dollars on their campaign, participating in high profile conferences like ArabNet, and would not divulge their sources of funding, or the identity of their leaders, even after repeated requests for more information. Something just felt wrong, so I chose to hold off on working with them, even though I "Like"d their Facebook page.
Shortly thereafter, I began receiving Facebook messages from them insisting that I join their ranks, and that they knew my friends, etc. I did not respond, as I found them to be too aggressive for my taste, particularly the referencing of friends and whatnot. (screenshot below)
Within a couple of days I received a threatening message from them in BOLD letters: "You didn't REPLY back" to which naturally I did not respond, that's just rude!
And that's when things got really ugly... on Sunday, considered quiet family day Lebanese, at 5:02 PM I received a phone call from an unknown number... continued after the jump...
I answered, and lo and behold, #FastLebanon was on the phone asking why I had not responded to their Facebook messages! I explained to them that I did not appreciate that they were calling me on my personal number, on a Sunday afternoon. I explained to them that their actions were bordering on coercion, and that they should leave me alone or I would go public with their constant harassment. They hung up on me.
A few minutes later they sent me an SMS, apologizing for their actions. (screenshot to come)
I figured I'd heard the last of them...
As things developed on the #FlipTheSwitch front, I started posting on the #FastLebanon and #Ontornet pages to try to rally all Lebanese behind this effort to speed up our networks.
Every time I would post something about taking action, and about the importance of locking onto an actionable objective, my posts would mysteriously disappear on the #FastLebanon page. Eventually, I posted a comment asking the admins to justify their deletion of my page. This of course they deleted, but eventually after repetitive queries, they responded with accusations of sabotaging their campaign.
They repeatedly accused me with, "Are you against competition"? To which I would respond, " I am not against anything, I am for faster, cheaper internet, and believe that it doesn’t matter how we get it, as long as we get it, and the sooner the better.”
So I would say, “Are you for faster internet in Lebanon in general (however we may get it), or only if you can have it your way?” To which they would respond, “You are against the private sector, you support the government controlling internet in Lebanon”. To which I would respond, “Again, I and the people on this page support you because you want #FastInternet in Lebanon full stop. Once you start putting conditions on how Lebanon should get faster internet, and who should provide it, then you are simply lying to your fans and supporters.” Which of course they would delete. They would delete the whole thread, leaving no trace behind.
So finally, this discussion happened on the wall of their Facebook page:
1 - funny stuff, the Fast Lebanon campaign (http://facebook.com/FastLebanon) keeps on deleting my post (the one with the argument about flipping the switch will reduce costs and increase speeds automatically), even though they claim to be supporting faster internet in Lebanon
seems if someone makes a logical argument about how the internet COULD be faster, even if the government flips the switch (rather than private sector), they immediately delete the post, in case any of their 27,000 fans realize that privatization is not the only solution (at least in the short term)
let's focus on the short term solution as a tactical move in our long term fight - if we could flip the switch tomorrow, the country would have faster and cheaper internet, which will in turn BOOST the knowledge economy and private sector, which will then be more capable of lobbying for the real changes (liberalization of telecom etc)!
if you want to get to the moon (liberalization in X years), you sure as hell need to build the spaceship (IMEWE cable already built and conneted to Lebanon), and fuel it (turn the cable ON [aka Flip The Switch campaign] to build the power of the knowledge economy and generate more private sector activity.
one - actionable -step at a time.
2 - this is their response: (Lebanese Want Fast Internet) read the terms & conditions of our page. We are not a platform to promote your activities. We read your posts. You are against competition, it means your with monopoly. Excuse us but we cannot support your activities. Kindly respect our terms & conditions. You can find them on left tab.
3 - to which i responded: ??? i am against competition???
4 - and: have you read anything i have posted? btw, i just noticed that you DELETED all my previous posts, even the ones you commented on and supported! yesterday you and I had a discussion in which i explained to you that i support all initiatives ...
5 - and: you are standing there in the top left corner, with the slogan "Broadband a Human Right" and yet if someone makes a logical argument that we might be able to find a short term solution while we work on our long term goals, you silence them... you should know that freedom of expression is actually a more fundamental human right than broadband. the fact that you only accept privatization as the solution, long, short, medium term, and that anyone who has another logical short term solution is deleted and silenced, indicates a pretty ugly and unethical agenda. explain yourself.
6 - to which they responded: (Lebanese Want Fast Internet) Like we said, we have clearly defined our mission and objectives. If you don't support and agree to them, we cannot be a platform to support your activities. We read posts on your wall accusing fastlebanon of privatization targets and that we r funded by companies. This is sabotage to our campaign. Read the tab of our terms and conditions, and with all due respect, if you don't want to be part of our cause, pls focus on yours and let us focus on ours. Tx
7 - and (Lebanese Want Fast Internet) If you want to discuss more on this subject let us know. By the way I read what you wrote on confirmed / unconfirmed stuff. We have info that contradicts yours. Especially on what needs to be done. Flipping it on will not resolve ANYTHING as long as price is high and set by ministry. They cannot change price without majlis wizara,... So listen to our plan & see if it is better that we cooperate. It would be a shame that u demonstrate & not reach anywhere,... Too much energy can be focused on detailed action plan,...
8 - to which i responded:
a - i am not accusing Fast Lebanon of anything, i am simply stating facts, and they are facts:
- Fast Lebanon is funded by the private sector, this has not been denied, and to be honest, i don't understand why you would consider my stating this fact to be problematic, a lot of great initiaties are funded by the private sector, and i personally support initiatives by their agendas, not their sources of funding
- Fast Lebanon is focusing on privatization, which also is a fact and you don't deny it, and again is not a problem because privatization in many markets around the world has increased quality and decreased costs (in many but not all markets)
b - again, if your campaign is to increase competition in the telecom sector by encouraging privatization, then no i am not sabotaging your campaign, i am stating facts. again, there is nothing wrong with this campaign objective, but it is a long term objective (6-12 months minimum)
c - again, i support all campaigns to speed up the internet in lebanon and level the playingfield, nobody should be allowed to monopolize the sector or pay off politicians to get issued a license. all bids should be open, transparent, and audited, for the ENTIRE lebanese population to review if need be
d - the Flip The Switch campaign is NOT against any campaign out there, it is neutral towards all, and is only FOR the immediate FLIPPING of the SWITCH on the IMEWE cable which would automatically increase Lebanon's internet capacity by 200x. this is the ONLY purpose of the campaign. so stop your accusations.
e - stop accusing me of sabotage as that borders on defamation
9 – and: again (and I’ve posted this before [you deleted it of course]), here’s why there’s a good chance that flipping the switch might actually solve some of our problems in the short term:
I keep on being asked, what if they Flip The Switch but keep prices and speeds as is! Here's a logical answer, that has proof in our own broken system.
The problem with the costs today (and whether they will reduce them if they Flip The Switch on the IMEWE cable) is that, and here's a cool analogy:
when you have just 100 items to sell, and you need to make 100,000,000 dollars to cover your national debt servicing and other national budget costs, you need to sell each item for 1 million dollars, however, if you had 100,000 items, you could sell each item for 1,000 dollars and still make 100,000,000 dollars!
so you have effectively reduced the price by 1000x!
this is what happened with the MTC & Alfa cost reductions that happened last year. they reduced prices by 50% because they increased the network capacity and thus were able to take on more customers, thus increasing revenues, thus decreasing costs to cover the income they needed to generate per year.
so, it really doesn't matter who speeds up the internet! what matters is that we Flip The Switch on the IMEWE cable and as a result increase our capacity by 200x and as a result reduce our prices and increase our bandwidth by at least 5-10x! and still make more money for the national debt servicing as well as the private sector and all other players.
just Flip The Switch and we all win! consumers have faster internet and more quota, private companies have more customers and more profit, and the government has more income from taxation.
10 - This went on for a while – I did not get the chance to copy / paste the entire conversation – and ended with the beautiful screenshot below, in which Fast Lebanon admits to running a cult-like practice of asking money from its fans / followers to support its activities, activities which are shrouded in secrecy. Sounds like Scientology doesn’t it?
Note that all my comments and posts were deleted, and I was banned from the page shortly thereafter.
So this is my story with the #FastLebanon campaign.
In my humble opinion, and based on Fast Lebanon’s coercive, aggressive, intimidating actions with me (and others, I’ve heard similar stories from many others on Facebook), I believe Fast Lebanon has a hidden agenda, especially as it is clear by its own DNS records, that it is funded / sponsored by the private sector. (DNS records were changed since)
Begin ---------------------------------- DNS Records -------------
Created On:17-Mar-2011 14:08:05 UTC
Last Updated On:18-Mar-2011 11:31:56 UTC
Expiration Date:17-Mar-2012 14:08:05 UTC
Domain Name: BB-P.NET
Furn El chebak
Palm Center 4th floor
Beirut, lb 0961
fastlebanon.org 19 mar NS1.BB-P.NET
fastlebanon.org 30 mar NS69.DOMAINCONTROL.COM
fastlebanon.com 20 mar NS1.BB-P.NET
fastlebanon.com 31 mar NS63.DOMAINCONTROL.COM
fastlebanon.net 20 mar NS1.BB-P.NET
fastlebanon.net 30 mar NS63.DOMAINCONTROL.COM
fastlebanon.mobi 19 mar NS1.BB-P.NET
fastlebanon.mobi 29 mar NS63.DOMAINCONTROL.COM
other domains hosted on 18.104.22.168 (panel.cedarcom.net) :
End ---------------------------------- DNS Records -------------
Furthermore, many scathing articles have been written about Fast Lebanon, including:
- Articles about private sector ISP / Telecom provider funding.
- Articles about it suing the Lebanese government in order block the implementation of 3G technologies.
- Articles about it being responsible for the 2 year delay on the implementation of DSL in Lebanon (2004-2006), which it achieved through a political ally, and did so to reinforce its position in the market with its own technologies, thus effectively eliminating competition for two full years.
- Articles about how this campaign is being used to pressure the Minister of Telecommunications to grant it an exclusive or preferred license in the upcoming license sale as per Telecom Law 431.
- Articles about using spectrum illegally, without a license.
the story, the coercion, the suppression of free speech and diverging viewpoints, the lack of transparency, the secrecy, the ‘mysterious’ sponsor / financier, the old articles about previously blocking DSL, and the new articles about it attempting to block 3G
Please tweet, share, facebook, blog, publish, e-mail, and spread this post as far and wide as possible.
We are ranked last in the world for internet speed and highest for cost.
Many opportunistic, malicious, unethical, immoral organizations will attempt to take advantage of our desperation, frustration, and fast internet needs to rally us behind its own cause, using us as numbers to leverage itself in negotiations for uncompetitive preferred treatment.
Please do not be deceived. Use the facts presented above. Let us judge them by their actions, not their words; by their history, not their vision.
Please tweet, share, facebook, blog, publish, e-mail, and spread this post as far and wide as possible.
And if you would like to rally behind more just, transparent, honest causes for faster internet in Lebanon, you have: