The Associated Press reports that Turkmenistan has begun to allow private citizens to connect to the internet. Previously internet access was restricted to government employees, diplomatic posts and offices of major international companies.
The average monthly salary in Turkmenistan is $200, so it is unlikely that many can afford the price of a home connection, nor is it known if the government will block any websites. According to the national provider, Turkmentelekom, surfing the net will cost around $1/hr on top of a monthly charge of $8. The initial installation costs $42.
Russian’s largest internet provider MTS has also launched a new high speed wireless service in the country. They are covering Ashgabat, Balkanabat (former Nebitdag) and Turkmenbashi (former Krasnovodsk). This will create some much needed competition for Turkmentelekom, which has held a monopoly in the country after the government suspended all other providers in 2000.
Turkmenistan already has their own version of Google.tm but the market would be attractive to Russian providers such as Yandex. As a former USSR satellite, the population of just over 5m speak Terkmen, Russian, Uzbek and Dari. The ccTLD for the country is .TM and is available for purchase by foreign companies or individuals from TM Registrars (10 yr minimum registration period).