Notes From Hairenik
December 19, 2006
It seems that the peace talks for a resolution to the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict are over for the rest of the year, according to a statement made by President Robert Kocharian last Thursday. Actually he doesn't foresee a solution to the conflict before next year's parliamentary elections. The excuse he made was that he basically did not want to politicize the issue, claiming that opposition leaders would use any kind of deal against him during the upcoming parliamentary elections, and he wants to "disappoint them." Pro-government forces could also be attacked as well, and thus things would get messy. But although this announcement was made, the OSCE as well as the Azeri side have supposedly not been notified that Kocharian does not indeed to meet President Ilham Aliyev again anytime soon. I can't say I am disappointed.

Also Armentel, which was only a few weeks ago sold to a Russian mobile phone services conglomerate named VimpleCom, has agreed to break up the monopoly it maintained on Internet services. Although there are several Internet Service Providers in Armenia, all of them must essentially lease lines provided to them from Arminco, which is the official service company ensuring that Armenia has access to the World Wide Web—Arminco is basically controlled by Armentel. So the hope is that competition will occur and the standards of service will increased coupled with a deflation in service fees. Plus, the IT sector, which is already booming, will grow even more if and when better Internet connections are made available. We'll see what happens but it sounds exciting to say the least. Although dial-up connections are not all that unreasonable in terms of price and reliability high-speed E1 connections cost several thousand dollars a month. The company I worked for was quoted a price if I remember correctly of $10,000 per month, and that was probably for a limited amount of data transfer. A leased split DSL line was costing around $600-700 a month as of six months ago but now that we have many more employees on staff that price will go up depending on how much bandwidth the company uses. The connection is also unreliable—a while back there was no Internet available for quite some time supposedly because a communications line was damaged at the bottom of the Black Sea for some reason. At home we use pre-paid dial-up service cards—4500 dram or just under $12 will buy you 30 hours of Internet time at a connection rate of about 44 Kbps. I'm assuming that when a second main Internet provider starts doing business in Armenia that price will drop significantly as well, just as the cost of mobile phone services did as soon as Vivacell opened in 2005. There's much to be excited about in 2007 in all spheres of society notably in business as well as politics, and it should all be very exciting.

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