Hong Kong telco PCCW is now the biggest supplier of bandwidth to Syria, according to Internet intelligence firm Renesys.
Turk Telecom, the incumbent in neighbouring Turkey, was shouldering much of the load until it abruptly quit on August 12, while Telecom Italia, is carrying a much lower share of transit traffic and looks like it too will depart, a Renysys blog post said.
That leaves PCCW as the biggest bandwidth provider, followed by India’s Tata Communications, and with Deutsche Telekom playing a minor role.
While politics is clearly at play here – the Turkish government is a vocal opponent of the Syrian regime – it is ridiculous to suggest that PCCW is part of some kind of Chinese government support effort.
China, unlike the US, has not imposed telecoms (or any other) sanctions on Syria – but neither has the EU, although Brussels has placed sanctions on network monitoring equipment and related services.
But even if it wanted to, Beijing couldn't sanction Hong Kong companies - it is a different jurisdiction.
That doesn't stop tech web site Ars Technica from putting a China spin on it:
With growing international diplomatic pressure and sanctions against Syria, the Syria Telecommunications Establishment (which controls the country’s Internet infrastructure) has increasingly taken its network business somewhere it’s wanted: China.
Which also somehow misses the role of Tata.
In the same vein, this AP story in the Washington Post refers to PCCW as “a Chinese telecoms company” in the headline and the text.
Enough with the China scarifying. This has little to do with the Chinese government and a lot to do with PCCW’s extensive Middle East network.
But it does raise questions about the value of internet sanctions. The US has forbidden its telcos, like Cogent and Level 3, from doing business with state-owned Syriatel because of its monitoring of citizens. That's nice, yet the logic of that is that Syrian citizens are better off without any connectivity at all.
Thanks to PCCW and Tata, Syrians can keep getting their story out.