Elected Minister of Telecommunications in January 2011, Nicolas Sehnaoui is a famed idealist, yet has since lacked results. He boasts an extensive list of accomplishments since his inauguration, including but not limited to increasing DSL speed, the launch of 3G and 4G across Lebanon and the opening of the Beirut Digital District.
Though we can't deny that Sehnaoui is working hard, internet users in Beirut have had a hard time keeping faith. Our inability to load webpages, download pictures, or even stream a YouTube video on low resolution without waiting for an hour begs to differ with Sehnaoui's feats.
That being said, the ministry of Lebanon takes care to address each of our problems... individually. That is, those of us who are important enough to cause a ruckus if dissatisfied.
Habib Battah, a Beirut-based journalist and author of The Beirut Report, shared his issues with the ministry's approach.
"The approach of addressing individual cases is more of to silence people that have influence," he said. "By silencing individual cases, they ignore the larger problem, which all the people are facing in this country."
An interesting Twitter exchange, captured by the wonderful Rasha Halabi, between Nadim Gemayel, Kataeb bloc MP, and Sehnaoui highlights this issue to a T.
"I can't understand how we're unable to access a decent internet connection for 2 days in a row," tweeted Gemayel.
Later that day, Sehnaoui replied with a string of questions, "Who's your provider? What type of subscription? ... Please let me know by Whatsapp so I can handle it."
A nice gesture, maybe, but Gemayel, like many other Lebanese people, is frustrated with the way the ministry tackles only one issue at a time. His reply to Sehnaoui, "My statement was more of an echo of the common complaints of the majority of the Lebanese people than a personal matter," makes us want to give him a high five.
He ended the conversation with a hilarious, albeit condescending, "Thanks for the follow up... P.S: connection seems better today!"
I mean, how often is it that you witness the utter slamming of a politician by none other than another politician?
Jokes aside, Gemayel does touch on some very pressing matters. Not only is the obscene price of our internet "almost criminal," as Battah puts it, but Lebanon also has one of the slowest DSL connections in the world.
"I get emails from the ministry in response to my complaints," said Battah, "but I want to laugh because I'm in Hamra, in Beirut. Not some little village."
We'll just hold on to the belief that one day, the Ministry of Telecommunications will wake up, lower the prices of the internet, and make our DSL at least a little bit faster. Till then, we'll keep praying to the internet gods that when we click "save" on our blog posts, we don't get a big "ERROR" page, deleting our work and making us want to curl up and die.
(Photo via Rasha Halabi)