Saturday, November 17, 2012

Finally Some Tangible Data on Telecom Sector Progress!

Could this be my first positive post ever on this blog? Probably! I’m not pessimistic, I’m just realistic; and the way things were going on lately in this country dictated an air of negativity that was caught by most of us.

Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui Annual Progress

Today, 4G testing has taken place in Beirut. Headed by Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui, the obtained results were really amazing. Average download speeds were hitting the upper 100Mbps limit (see picture below). These results are really wonderful and very promising. Additionally, a yearly report (English VersionArabic VersionFrench Version) tackling the progress the Ministry of Telecommunication (MoT), from June 2011 till June 2012, shows very positive figures. I really enjoyed the professional yet friendly look of the report. Being prepared in the form of an infographic is very relevant.

4G Lebanon Connection Test

Reading through the numbers, one can really notice the huge leap Lebanon has taken in terms of Internet speeds and Mobile Networking. Below are a few statistics showing the improvement in various Telecom sectors:


Mobile Network:

- 15% increase in Mobile Subscribers

- Additional 20% of Mobile network signal antennas have been installed

- 11% decrease in both prepaid and postpaid mobile plan costs per subscriber

- 45% Increase in number of available lines

- 73% Increase in number of available Products and Services for Mobile Users

- New service bundles for young people


Internet Service:

- 30% Increase in DSL subscriptions

- 20% Increase in Broadband Subscriptions

- The number of DSL equipped centrals have doubled

- 231% Increase in International Capacity Availability

- 15 times faster average DSL speed

- Free Internet at night


My readers may have noticed a contradiction between two posts. A couple of weeks ago, I posted an article on problems a lot of people have been facing in Lebanon concerning the mobile network. However, this does not contradict the fact that a lot of advancement have been experienced in the Telecom field. In fact, at the moment it seems the problems I had mentioned earlier are no longer as serious as they used to be. And one should be honest and say that the mobile network services have exponentially improved over the past year.

alfa and mtc Touch

Also from my personal experience with DSL, I can vouch that my 4Mbps internet connection is delivering amazingly. Even though I had to go through a lot of trouble to get it to work (for some reason when I called 1515 they told me there was a problem with my central, but when the maintenance guy came over her told me that there’s nothing wrong with the central, but that something must be done by Ogero that hasn’t been done, And in a few minutes he got it to work. Now I have a fully working 4Mbps internet connect! Sweet!)

All in all, it is fair to say that regardless of what your political views are—whether you support Minister Sehnaoui’s political affiliation or not—you cannot deny the fact that for the first time, real tangible work  has been done, and results have been felt! I hope this will be a lesson for future projects. We have had enough of listening to empty speeches; and it’s not our fault that we need hard proof now to believe, political corruption have made it so!

Saturday, November 17, 2012 by Eli ·


Friday, November 9, 2012

Shameful: Fortune Telling On Lebanese Public Radio

On my way back from work, I switched on the radio and tuned in to Radio Orient, and what I heard blew me away, and I drove the whole way back in disbelief. Below is a recording of what was being broadcasted on public radio!



chammas Carmen Chammas (@CarmenChammas), an astrologer/fortune-teller, answers calls from gullible people who call to ask her to read their fortune or that of someone they know. Carmen asks for their birthday and the time their were born at, and from what it sounds, she enters the info into a computer, and she starts telling those poor ignorant folks about their present and future. Using astrological nonsense, she answers their questions, and she advises them on what to do in their lives.

I honestly can’t believe stuff like that is allowed to be broadcasted on public radio. What does that say about our society and culture? Is this the level of intellect we are portraying as Lebanese?


I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I never imagined people could be so stupid. As for the fortune teller, well I never blame the charlatan, because they themselves know they are fooling the people, and they are taking advantage of their gullibility! In my opinion, they are frauds who should be locked up!

Just listen to this lady who is asking Carmen about her Son who works in Algeria. She wanted to know about his work and his love life. Listen to what she says about the girl he is in love with. How is this going to effect them? I don’t know if you’ll realize how dangerous this stuff is. People’s lives could be seriously affected by the idiotic prophecies made by a fucking irresponsible woman!

All I can say is shame on you Radio Orient!

Friday, November 9, 2012 by Eli ·


Thursday, November 8, 2012

All I Want Is To Make a Simple Phone Call!

alfa and mtc


Let’s be honest, our mobile networks suck big time. For the past couple of month, trying to reach any party over a mobile phone took several attempts before you could get your call connected. There seems to be a certain ritual before you are able to talk to another person. The first couple attempts end up giving you connection error signaled by 3 beeps; then, if you’re lucky and a connection is made, you get the annoying tune which indicates that the person you’re trying to reach is out of service. If you haven’t given up by then, or you have completely forgotten why you were calling in the first place, you might give it one more shot, and if you’re really lucky this time you’ll reach him or her on your 10th attempt. However, a minute into the call (I’m being generous here) the call drops!

During the past month, my friends and family would call me and tell me that they’ve been trying to reach me for an hour, but they couldn’t because my line was unavailable. I wanted to test whether there was something wrong with my phone. I tried calling it a while keeping an eye on the service bar indicator—which showed full coverage, but ironically I would get that same annoying tone. Similarly, and using other phones to test the same issue, it turned out that around 4 out of 5 times, you would get a no coverage message. So I realized that there must be something wrong with the carrier and not the phone. I discovered later on that I wasn’t the only one experiencing these irritating issues; everyone was talking about how bad the mobile service has become.


Sehnaoui twitter profile


Meanwhile, on twitter, @NicolaSehnaoui, the Lebanese minister of Telecom—and the “#1 politician on twitter” according to his profile—keeps on tweeting about the installation of several new coverage stations throughout Lebanon, which are supposed to improve the network. Following his tweets you would feel proud of your country and the efforts the minister is putting into the Telecom sector. And to be honest, at first I was impressed by the hard work portrayed by Mr. Sehnaoui—whom I sincerely encourage and applaud for his attempt at publicizing his actions on twitter and other social media websites; but then I wondered what’s the use of all this if in reality the mobile network is becoming worse than what it had been prior to the new “improvements”. With all due respect Mr. the minister, but many of us just don’t get how adding new coverage antennas worsens the network?


This issue is no longer as bad as it had been a week ago—at least not for me. Now only 2 out of 3 attempts to call someone fail. But try calling 111 (the helpdesk) if you dare? Believe me, you have a better chance at reaching the Dalai Lama than getting connected to those guys. Every single time I try calling 111, I get a message telling me that due to the large number of calls I should try again later; but it seems our understanding of the concept “later” is totally different.


Network Antenna Lebanon


I know we’ve come a long way compared to where our Telecom industry was a couple of years ago, but we’re still way behind compared to the other countries.


Like so many of you, I’ve had lots of issue with my carrier. I have written a post once concerning the period when the so-called “revolutionary 3G” data connection was being implemented. Back then you could hardly browse a webpage. Slowly and painfully, though, the 3G network “improved” over time. However, the coverage remains sporadic; and the constant switching back and forth between 3G to 2G—which drains the battery and interrupts the internet connection—is still a major failing point for our Telecom oligopoly.


Ironically, minister Sehnaoui is hinting at some sort of 4G testing, which will be implemented in Lebanon soon. But for all the reasons above, I’m really sorry Mr. Sehnaoui but that doesn’t excite me a bit. My question to you Mr. the minister is shouldn’t the coverage be fixed first, and the prices—of the already existing 3G plans—be lowered before ”updating” to 4G? Isn’t a stable 3G connection over a working calling service a much preferred option than having 4G which doesn’t really work?

Thursday, November 8, 2012 by Eli ·


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tripoli Expects The Worst: The Calm Before The Storm

I learned some very worrying news today about the current situation in Tripoli. Violent clashes, between the two regions of Bab-al-Tabani and Jabal Mohsen, have been going on for the past few months, but an eerie calm reigns over this ill-fated city at this time.


Many people, who work in that city, including myself, have been profiting from this piece. The pausing of the fighting has rekindled the busy city-life of Tripoli. However, most of us didn’t know that this was the calm before the storm.

As I’m writing this post, preparations for another “round” of violent attacks are taking place on both fronts. Defence lines are being built out of stacked-up sandbags and used tires; arms and ammunition are being resupplied in large quantities; and in Jabal Mohsen women and children are being evacuated.


How much truth underlines these claims, and how much of it is hearsay, I can’t really say, but I can confirm that the sandbag defence stations are real; I have seen civilians stacking them up, with my own eyes.

You don’t need to be a Michel Hayek to foresee what will ensue next. But you might question how such obvious preparations could happen under the noses of the Lebanese Armed Forces—who are supposed to be maintaining a line of peace by deploying heavily armed troops between the two regions. But the sad truth is that the LAF have simply retreated from the fighting zone under no publicly stated pretence.

The reason for this decision, as the locals have learned, is due to the lack of political cover for this mission. In other words, not a single politician, from our worthless lot, is willing to be associated with any decision taken regarding this situation. Therefore, the only solution was to fully retreat to the nearby city of El-Mina.


Today, the LAF simply lurks in the neighboring region, sending small units in sporadic patrols around the hot-zones.

How long before burning bullets and exploding grenades reignite the skies of Tripoli, no one knows, but we can all be sure that they will sometime soon.

Saturday, November 3, 2012 by Eli ·


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lebanon In Numbers: The Public Debt Case

If you are one of the lucky ones to have been born in this lovely country—just like me—then the number 54 Billion must have a great significance to you. In US dollar terms, this is the amount of debt our beloved country owes to the public. 54 Billion United States Dollars is the price which you and I have to repay; the price of our parents’ and grandparents’ partying years.

Every day, we hear people talking about the $54 billion debt, but what they don’t tell you is what does it mean? You know it’s a lot, but what can you compare it to in order to understand whether it’s a big deal or not? I can tell you that Australia, for example, has a debt of about $400 billion, but we both agree that Australia’s economy is better than that of Lebanon. In fact, when you compare the size of the debt to the size of the economy (what economists call Dept-To-GDP ratio), on a list from 1 to 145, with 1 being the “worst” debt-to-GDP, Australia ranks at 113 while Lebanon is proudly the 5th.

As part of the new segment on Free Thinking Lebanon: “Lebanon In Numbers”, I give you my first ever Infographic. I hope it will offer you a better insight into the Lebanese public debt issue.
Don’t forget to share!

Saturday, October 27, 2012 by Eli ·


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tripoli As Google Sees It

While looking for pictures to add to my latest post “The Ghosts Of The Civil War Visit Tripoli”, I searched Google Images. I simply queried the term “Tripoli Lebanon” and the results Google returned were shocking. Every other picture shows acts of violence in the city. Is this the image we are portraying to the world? This is very sad.

Below is an example of the images. I suggest you try yourself; simply search for “Tripoli Lebanon” in Google images, and see for yourself.




Mideast Lebanon Syria





Thursday, October 25, 2012 by Eli ·


The Ghosts Of The Lebanese Civil War Visit Tripoli

Today is my first day at my Tripoli office after the Achrafieh Bombing of last Friday. During the past couple days, entering the city wasn’t advised at all. Those who attended their daily jobs were soon warned to leave immediately. Stories of snipings, and of insurgents shooting their automatic guns at random, were not strange to anyone who had been following the news lately, especially regarding the doomed situation in Tripoli. What is new, however, is the fact that in the aftermath of the Achrafieh explosion, the situation escalated considerably. You might be wonder “what could be graver than civilians shooting each other, and shelling each other’s homes?” Well, believe it or not, in some of Tripoli’s side-streets, people were encountering road-blockers who were asking for a sort of tax in order to let them pass.

Armed Men Tripoli

These “gatekeepers” were mainly kids; some of them carrying guns that look so heavy on them that “their shoulders appeared to be dislocated,” a co-worker later told me. He was held at one of these roadblocks (I don’t remember the name of the street but I recall that it was not one of the main roads of the city). A kid with an AK47—strapped to his crooked shoulder—approached him and asked him to pay up if he wishes to cross to the other side of the blocked street; when he replied by saying that he had no money on him, they took his pack of Marlboro lights, his lunch and an apple.

If you are finding it hard to believe that such things were taking place in Tripoli, Lebanon, I can’t blame you, because I didn’t believe it either at first. However, an additional recount from a different co-worker, describing the same detail, made me want to check for its validity. Toward the end of business hours, everybody in the office was talking about this; sadly these things were truly happening!

If you still cannot believe it though, you might want to check what was happening in other regions in Beirut, Tripoli and South Lebanon, where some road-blockers were asking for the identity cards of people. Those innocent men, women and children were discriminated by their religious identity—which could be determined by their First and Last names. Depending on your religious sect, you were either let go or “bullied”. Accounts of this taking place in various regions throughout Lebanon were all over the news. These shocking stories reminded us of the horrors of the Lebanese Civil War.

Lebanon Insurgents in Black Masks

As I arrived to Tripoli this morning, I was surprised by how “normal” everything was. Traffic was blocked as usual; people were walking in the street as if nothing had happened; and shops were open for business. City-life in Tripoli was back to normal. Many of you would consider such a scene as a positive sign that street violence was over. However, what I felt, when I encountered this awkward normality is completely different; to me this was a scary and worrying.

The question I pondered—which is the direct cause of my pessimism—is whether we, the Lebanese people, have become so accustomed to such waves of violence and civil insurgency, that we no longer show signs of fear and despair; and as soon as the situation allows it, we carry-on living our lives as if nothing had happened.

I know the Lebanese people have had enough of these devastating events; and that many of us have given up on this country—after having raised our voices to no avail, but regardless of all these facts, I could never understand how we no longer give these scary realities their deserved weight. Similar events have disturbed our parents during the civil war, and there is no reason why they wouldn’t end up extremely damaging to our own generation. Today, it might still be limited to a pack of smokes and a fruit, or maybe a couple slaps to the face, but who knows, maybe these bloody scenes that have given terrible nightmares to our parents in the past, might come back on day to haunt us.

by Eli ·


Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Achrafieh Bombing: a Sad Incident and an Even Sadder Reaction


I wish it didn’t have to get to such a tragic event for me to return to posting on this blog. Friday October 19th, 2012, a horrific terrorist attack shook Sassine Square in Achrafieh, Beirut, and all its neighbouring areas during rush hour (around 02:30pm). The blast, caused by a car bomb parked in the street, caused massive damage to the cars and the buildings in the vicinity; but worst of all were human casualties: 8 dead and more than 100 injured.

A couple of hours into this national blow, Lebanon learned that this cowardly attack had targeted the convoy of Internal Security Forces Information Branch chief Wissam al-Hassan, and had resulted in his death.

This scene was a deja-vu to all of us. A series of political assassinations that took place four years ago had a similar beginning to what we have witnessed today. A number of highly respectable MPs were killed during these bombings; a state of constant fear reigned over this doomed country; and despite those attacks having stopped a few months later, Lebanon stepped into a period of instability and economic stagnation which still cripples our country today.

During their coverage of the incident, the media was communicating irresponsible accusations uttered by different Lebanese politicians—mainly from the March 14 coalition—who, instead of conveying a peaceful message, were pointing fingers at the parties whom they believe are behind this attack. Even though one can sympathise with their situation—the assassinated figures were all from this coalition, however we have learned the hard way, from previous similar situations, that such behaviour causes terrible counter-effects in the form of violent street demonstrations carried out by angry mobs expressing their rage by burning tires and vandalizing.

Burning Tires Lebanon

Following the announcement of the death of Chief Wissam al-Hassan, many TV stations began reporting acts of violence all over the country: tire-burning in one place, shootings in an other, and road-blocking. On hearing these messages, I couldn’t but curse out loud. A wave of disgust overwhelmed me. What is becoming of this country? Are we heading toward total anarchy? Corruption, politics, and secularism have become a malignant cancer, slowly eating Lebanon from the inside out.

Violence, murder, rape, theft, public property vandalism, and now terrorism have become more frequent and more damaging than what we were used to in the past. It seemed lately as if any event, regardless of its gravity, is apt to light up the short fuse of depraved rioters—followers of a certain political leader.

These gullible members of society are not be the root of all that evil, but their damaging conduct fuels the terrorist machine that threat our own existence on a daily basis. Today’s violent reactions to an already horrible incident made me realize how worse our situation have become

A viable explanation of the above increasingly degrading situation came up in a conversation with my fiancĂ©e today (and it is the reason why I’m blogging about this in the first place).

The unstable situation in Lebanon, both in terms of internal security and worsening economic conditions, has been the major drive behind the ever-increasing number of Lebanese expatriates who keep on deserting this country in search for work abroad. This economically and socially detrimental process has significant consequences on the demography of Lebanon.

The majority of those who leave the country on a daily basis are educated young Men and Women, holders of a university degree, and who would otherwise waste their credentials by surrendering to the domestic low-paying job market.

The high demand for fresh graduates has attracted the learned slice of our young workforce. Less and less of our productive working party is now being represented by educated youth; instead the generation on which the country relies on to build the future is being overstocked with the unqualified, the illiterate and violent street thugs.

Once viewed from this perspective, the sad reality we live in today becomes justified. How do we expect to move forward and overcome the social and economic barriers put in place for us by the plague-ridden regional politics and the international agendas that dictate our destiny in this disaster-prone part of the map? I understand that we are facing a difficult multi-layered problem; however, we must not ignore these fundamental social and economic issues which are the pillars a healthy country builds on. Today, the footprint of  “good” people is still considerably visible, but will it always be if we continue on the same path of ignorance? Maybe the next time I’m voting I should stop for a second and remember #Achrafieh #Sassine.

Saturday, October 20, 2012 by Eli ·


Monday, January 9, 2012

Depressing: The Case of the Internet And 3G in Lebanon

WISE SlowIn two days, my 1GB mobile 3G plan (ALFA) will be reset. My total consumption, so far, during a whole months minus two days is 162.18 MB ( = 15.8%). Compared to the first month 3G was implemented, when I reached my limit after just 8 days, it is a huge difference!

At my parents’ place, their “WISE” 1Mbps wireless broadband consumption is at 69% with three days to go.  Prior to this month, they used to recharge at least 2 or 3 times in a single month.

What is happening? Are we using the internet less? We’re no longer heavy internet users?

No ladies and gents, it is not us! The ridiculously slow and intermittent mobile and wireless broadband connections are making it impossible for us to use the internet.

A couple months ago, Lebanon witnessed a huge campaign aimed at the improvement of both mobile and home internet speeds. When new plans—faster plans—started to emerge we all thought this was a great step for every Lebanese internet user. Prior to that, internet in Lebanon was literally the worst in the world.

Alfa Slow


Despite the small increase in the maximum traffic bandwidth, which is not still ridiculous, as well as the small drop in 3G plan prices—$32 for 1GB of max. traffic, we thought “Hey, let’s not complain, this is a great step forward!”

But guess what? Today I AM COMPLAINING!

I just got off the phone with the technical support of one of the Cash-Cows/companies (I won’t say which one. Hint: see 2nd paragraph or click here) who supplies my parents’ home internet connection. I called to complain about the unbelievably slow speed which has been so for the past couple weeks. His response was (I’m not kidding):

“It seems the base you are connected to is at full capacity. I’m sorry we can’t do anything now (it was 07:30pm) tomorrow we will have someone looking into it.”


Not bad! It seems they will fix it tomorrow! I DON’T THINK SO! And the reason I know is because this is the same exact response I’ve had for the second time in a row in less than a week! They could literally turn it into a recording and play it for all customers calling for support!


ALFA Slow 2


Moving to the infamous 3G. I’m sure most of you who use the same carrier as me (I won’t say which. Hint: see paragraph 1 or click here) are well aware of the 10 second hang up problem which has been going on for a quite a while now. In brief, what is going on is that if you’re connected to the 3G network you are most likely going to be disconnected from any call you make after just 10 seconds.

So I called ALF.. Oops.. I mean the company, and they told me they’re having a “temporary” problem with their 3G network(it seems temporary has a different meaning in their dictionary, because two months is not my definition of temporary). Anyway, because of some issues with the network, they are advising all their clients to switch their smartphones to 2G-ONLY modes.

Two months later, I’m still on 2G-ONLY mode, meaning that I can only use the slow EDGE connection—but which is faster than 3G at the moment. Every day, I try testing the 3G network: I get the famous 10-SEC Disconnection, and the internet is slower that what WAP was 5 years ago.

Now the solution in my opinion.. Forget it! I give up! I have no solution, and I guess neither does anyone! Am I too negative? Fuck it I don’t care!


My disgust with how things—everything—in Lebanon are regressing. The world moves forward while we run backwards. I’m starting to give up on my country (I put “starting” just to ease up on the negativity).

How about you? I would love to hear how you’re managing with all the negativity taking place in Lebanon?  


PS: I hope I’ll be able to UPLOAD this post over this …. connection!

Monday, January 9, 2012 by Eli ·


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Post Of Acknowledgment

354973036_a9466152e9_oEvery person who has ever started a new personal blog—a serious one—knows how much effort and time it takes to launch one and maintain it. Those of you, who are considering creating a new one, need to be aware of the great amount of dedication in order to make such a project work. But don’t be discouraged because, if you ask any blog owner who has succeeded, it is worth every second of hard work you spend building YOUR blog.

My personal experience was not different. Looking back at the first couple months, I can still remember the obstacles I faced trying to make it between the already successful blogs. I tried every tool available for bloggers to promote their work. Sometimes I even considered giving up; but I really glad I didn’t.

Then one day, a twitter user whom I started to follow, followed me back, and started retweeting my tweets. Then on May 19, 2010 I was surprised to read a blog post on this guy’s personal blog; a post inviting his readers to check out my own blog! He claimed it was a decent attempt that needs a little encouragement. 

This guy to whom I am greatly in debt for of his genuine support of Free Thinking Lebanon. This great person who goes by the handle vjack (@vjack); the man behind one of the best Atheism and free thinking blogs out there: “Atheist Revolution”.

vjack this post goes to you buddy for all the good things you’ve been throwing at me for the past couple years. Thank you. Cheers!

Atheist Revolution

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 by Eli ·


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