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The market for internet access in Armenia is concentrated in the capital city of Yerevan, which
contains one third of the country’s population. ISPs offer bandwidth connections with speeds
varying from 512 Kbps to 50 Mbps.
All three mobile operators offer 2G and 3G networks (EDGE,
UMTS/WCDMA) and one operator offers 4G network services (LTE), but only in the capital city.
In contrast to Yerevan’s diverse market, only one or two mobile broadband services are usually
available in villages and approximately 60 percent of rural towns are covered by landline
broadband. According to official information from mobile operators,
3G services are available to
almost 90 percent of the population, covering 85 percent of the country. The total number of
mobile broadband subscribers in Armenia is about 210,000, in addition to 195,000 landline
connections, accounting for approximately 45 percent of households or 13 percent of the
The number of dial-up connections in Armenia has rapidly decreased during the last
five years and by the end of 2012 there were fewer than 2,500 users.
Strong competition among the three primary mobile service providers and internet service
providers in Armenia has resulted in fair market prices for both wireless and landline broadband
services. ADSL connections with speeds of 1Mbps are available for $11 per month and the price for
a minimal volume (3GB) package of mobile broadband service costs $15 per month. Internet costs
are relatively high when compared to the minimum salary in Armenia, which is $80 per month. At
the same time, considering that the average public utilities bill can vary from $50 to $100 in the
summer and $100 to $200 in the winter, the cost of internet access is affordable for the majority of
the population, whose average income is approximately $600 per month. Additionally, the
availability of free access points in the capital and almost all major cities makes internet services
accessible for the majority of the urban population.
From 2005 to 2010, a number of nonprofit and community organizations implemented a series of
projects aimed at establishing free public internet access centers. In particular, Project Harmony
connected all Armenian schools to the internet with financial support from the U.S. State
Department, Open Society Institute, and later from the World Bank.
Currently, this project is
funded from the state budget. Another large-scale internet connectivity project has been
implemented by the UNDP mission in Armenia. Recently, the municipality of Yerevan launched
free public internet access points that are available throughout a significant portion of the city, in
addition to universities and schools. Mobile operators also provide limited access in public spaces
such as cafes and public transportation. Public access centers have now been launched in 11 cities,
the centers of each of the Armenia’s administrative districts (marzes).
In practice, the Armenian government and the telecommunication regulatory authority, the Public
Services Regulation Commission (PSRC),
do not interfere with or try to influence the planning of
MTS, “Internet Express Tariff Plans,” accessed July 30, 2013, http://mts.am/en/individual‐customers/internet‐and‐tv/internet‐
This information was derived from reports published on several mobile operators’ websites, including MTS
(http://www.mts.am), Beeline (http://www.beeline.am), and Orange Armenia (http://www.orangearmenia.am).
This number indicates only large screen (notebooks, netbooks, computers and tablets) service packages and does not include
small screen (mobile phones and smart phones) users of broadband connectivity.
Project Harmony, “Armenia School Connectivity Program,” accessed July 30, 2013, http://www.ph‐int.org/what_we/pr58/.
Armenian territorial divisions include 10 marzes and Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, which also has a status of marz.
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REEDOM ON THE
network topology. Operators plan and develop their networks without any coordination with
either the government or the regulatory authority. Moreover, the regulatory authority requires
service providers to indicate any technological restrictions in their public offers. Armenian internet
users enjoy access to internet resources without limitation, including peer-to-peer networks, voice
and instant messaging services such as Skype and Google Talk, and popular social networks such as
Facebook, YouTube, and LiveJournal.
The regulatory authorities in Armenia primarily focus on companies with significant market power.
Armenia was one of the first post-Soviet countries to privatize telecommunication companies. In
1997, the incumbent Armenian operator was sold to a Greek state-owned company with a 13-year
monopoly on basic telephone and international data transmission services, including internet. In
2005, however, the Armenian government revised the incumbent’s license and granted a second
GSM license; by 2007, all exclusive rights of the incumbent had been abolished. Since then,
Armenian users can choose from three mobile service operators and more than 100 ISPs, though
analysis of service providers’ official reports shows that the five leading operators together control
approximately 90 percent of the internet market.
Armenian legislation requires that providers obtain a license for either the provision of internet
services or the operation of a telecommunication network.
Procedures for obtaining licenses
differ: a service license is obtained through a simplified licensing procedure (purchased for an
amount equivalent to approximately $250), while a network operation license requires verifying
the professional and technical capacity of the company and is issued six months after filing the
application with the regulatory authority. In 2012, the Armenian government undertook radical
reforms of the telecommunication regulatory framework to simplify the market entry procedures
of both network operation and services. According to the recently adopted Amendments to the
Law on Electronic Communication, service providers will no longer be required to obtain a license
but will simply need to notify the regulatory authority.
Public access points such as cafes, libraries, schools, universities, and community centers are not
required to obtain a license for offering internet access unless they offer services for a fee. In
general, according to the Licensing Law, nonprofit entities are not required to obtain a license for
the provision of internet services regardless of their legal status.
It is worth noting that both for-
profit and nonprofit service providers in Armenia enjoy free use of the low-energy Wi-Fi spectrum:
use of 2.4 GHz frequency does not require permission unless it exceeds 0.1 watts of power.
However, the use of 2.4 GHz for more powerful devices requires permission granted without
auction or tender, but taking into account electromagnetic compatibility with other devices in
Article 15 of Law of the Republic of Armenia on Electronic Communication, adopted by the national assembly on July 8, 2005.
Public Services Regulatory Commission of the Republic of Armenia, “Law on Electronic Communication,”
Law of the Republic of Armenia on Changes and Amendments to the Law on Electronic Communication. Adopted on April 29,
2013, entered into the legal force on June 15, 2013. Official Bulletin No 05/29(969), June 5, 2013.
Article 43 of the Law of the Republic of Armenia on Licensing. Adopted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia
on May 30, 2001 with several amendments from 2002‐2012.
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Mobile telecommunication companies are granted a license through regular network operation
licensing procedures, but are also required to obtain permission for the use of radio frequencies,
which is usually granted through an open auction. An exception can be made if no alternative
applicant is interested in a particular frequency, or for frequencies and equipment that do not
interfere with other operators’ activities (such as radio relay communication). For cases in which an
entity applies for a non-auctioned frequency, the service provider is required to carry out a test for
The concept of an independent regulatory authority was implemented in Armenia in 2006 with the
adoption of the Law on Electronic Communication, which was developed with substantial expert
contribution from the World Bank, as well from U.S. and European Union consultants. Armenia
has chosen a multi-sector regulatory model in which there is one body, the PSRC, which is in
charge of the regulation of energy, water supply, and telecommunications services. The PSRC’s
authority, mechanisms of commissioners’ appointments, and budgeting principles are defined
under the Law on State Commission for the Regulation of Public Services.
The members or commissioners of the PSRC are appointed by the President of the Republic of
Armenia according to the recommendations of the Prime Minister. Once appointed, a
commissioner can be dismissed only if he or she is convicted of a crime, fails to perform his or her
professional duties, or violates other restrictions in the law, such as obtaining shares of regulated
companies or missing more than five PSRC meetings. In cases of dismissal for professional failure,
the PSRC makes a decision and reports to the President of the Republic of Armenia for action. The
PSRC is accountable to the National Assembly in the form of an annual report, but the parliament
merely takes this report into consideration and cannot take any action.
One of the weakest provisions of the Armenian regulatory framework is the absence of term limits
for commissioners: every commissioner can be appointed multiple times, making his or her
appointment dependent on current political leaders. In practice, the regulatory bodies in Armenia
lack independence due to the strong dependence of the commissioners’ career on political
leadership of the country.
For example, in 1995, the broadcasting license of the independent
television company A1+ was suspended for refusing to broadcast only pro-government material,
and in 2002 its broadcasting frequency was awarded to another company. Despite a ruling by the
European Court of Human Rights in 2008 which stated that the regulatory authority’s refusal to
reinstate the company’s broadcasting license amounted to a violation of freedom of information,
the license was never reinstated.
In September 2012, A1+ began broadcasting on the airwaves of
Armnews. During this time, A1+ was nonetheless able to continue publishing news content on its
The Law on Public Services Regulation Commission was adopted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia on
December 25, 2003.
There are three independent regulatory authorities in Armenia that are part of executive, but not a part of government.
These three authorities are the public utilities regulator, the broadcasting regulator, and the competition authority. There is
also a civil service commission, which, however, is different from the concept of independent regulatory bodies.
Case No32283/04, Meltex LTD and Mesrop Movsesyan vs. Armenia, June 7, 2008,
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The Commission’s budget is formed in accordance with the Law on Public Service Regulation
Commission and is composed of licensing and regulatory fees that companies pay to the state
budget. The amount of regulatory fees is defined by the Commission in accordance with the
procedure set up under the relevant provision of the law. The Law on Electronic Communication
contains provisions guaranteeing the transparency of the decision-making procedures of the
Commission: all decisions are made during open meetings with prior notification and requests for
comments from all interested persons posted on the website.
In spite of three well-established ICT-related nonprofit associations, self-regulation of the industry
is significantly underdeveloped in Armenia. The oldest nonprofit institution is the Internet Society
(ISOC), which is the national chapter of the worldwide ISOC network. At the early stage of
internet development in Armenia (1995 through 1998), ISOC Armenia was a primary internet
policy advocate and industry promoter. It served as a forum where internet service providers
discussed their problems, developed policy agendas, and resolved industry conflicts. However,
after the establishment of the independent regulatory authority, ISOC no longer plays a self-
regulating role as most industry disputes are filed with the PSRC . Nevertheless, ISOC continues to
maintain the registration of domain names, and in spite of lacking formal dispute resolution policies
(such as, for example, domain name disputes resolution procedures), it carries out the registry
function effectively with minimal influence from government authorities and the regulator.
The Armenian ICT market enjoys a liberal and non-discriminatory domain name registration
regime. ISOC Armenia registers domain names according to ICANN recommendations and best
practices. Although formally, members of the Armenian Internet Society are individuals, the
organization’s board is composed of service providers’ managers and in general, the Society’s policy
agenda is strongly influenced by the interests of traditional providers that started their business in
Another well-established industry association is the Union of Information Technologies Enterprises
Though industry self-regulation is one of the main goals of the Union, so far it has not
developed any significant policies for industry regulation. Both ISOC Armenia and UITE are
founders of a third notable nonprofit institution, the ArmEx Foundation, which was established
with the sole purpose of creating a local data traffic exchange point. Other founders include leading
ISPs, mobile and landline telecommunication operators.
The Armenian government does not consistently or pervasively block users’ access to content
online. The only significant case of internet filtering and blocking was recorded in March 2008
during post-elections events, immediately after clashes between an opposition rally and police
Article 11 of the Law of the Republic of Armenia on Public Service Regulation Commission.
“UITE History,” Union of Information Technology Enterprises, accessed July 30, 2013, http://uite.org/en/about‐us/uite‐
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resulted in at least eight people killed and hundreds of people injured.
The government declared a
state of emergency and restricted certain media publications, including independent internet news
outlets. The security services demanded that the Armenian domain name registrar suspend the
domain names of opposition and independent news sites, and requested that ISPs block certain
outside resources, such as some opposition pages on social network platforms (particularly
LiveJournal, which was the most popular social network used by opposition and civil society
activists for blogging and reporting). Armenian authorities were strongly criticized by international
observers for their reaction to the post-elections crisis, including the restriction of the access to
After the events of 2008, Armenian authorities have been very careful
regarding restrictions on internet access and no instances of politically-motivated filtering or
blocking have been recorded since that time.
In spite of the fact that according to Article 11 of the Law on Police,
law enforcement authorities
have the right to block particular content to prevent criminal activity, in practice, such blocking
cases have been limited to locally-hosted, illegal content such as illegal pornography and copyright-
infringing materials. Service providers involved in the transferring or provision of technical access
to illegal resources (such as child pornography, propaganda of crime or cyberterrorism) are not
liable for content they make available to their customers provided that they have no prior
knowledge of the content. Any decision of a law enforcement body to block particular content can
be challenged in court by the resource or content owners, and if the court rules that the measure
was illegal or unnecessary, the resource and content owners may claim compensation. Additionally,
Armenia is a member of the European Human Rights Convention; therefore, any such decision can
also be challenged at the European Court of Human Rights.
Currently, self-censorship is not a widespread practice online. The Armenian government and
ruling political elite have avoided the application of any extralegal measures to prevent political
opponents or independent internet resources from publishing particular online content. However,
similar to traditional media outlets such as television or printed press, Armenian internet news
resources are exposed to political pressure. In some cases, for example, journalists of a particular
online media outlet are not allowed to deviate from the editorial policy of the outlet, which is often
linked to one of the political parties. Such pressure has the potential to affect the overall situation of
freedom of speech in the country, but it is worth noting that online publishers and individual
bloggers strongly resist self-censorship. Indeed, there is a wide diversity of opinion in social media
and virtual battles between pro- and anti-government bloggers are often observed. A variety of
independent and opposition web resources provide Armenian internet audiences with politically
Reports on the number of people killed vary; according to the official report from the Council of Europe, eight people were
killed. “Special Mission to Armenia,” Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, March 12‐15, 2008,
“Observation of the Presidential Election in Armenia,” Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, February 19, 2008,
According to the Article 11 of the Law of the Republic of Armenia on Police (adopted on 16 April 2001, Official Bulleting No
15(147) of 31 May 2001) the police authorities have a general obligation to undertake measures to prevent crime.
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non-biased, neutral, or oppositional opinions, and there are only a few state-owned media
enterprises in Armenia.
The Armenian government is very cautious about media freedom issues and tries to avoid direct
pressure that may raise criticism from international organizations and local civil society activists.
However, both the ruling political elite and the opposition party do have some influence over
traditional and new media outlets. According to accounts from media professionals and civil society
activists, most media outlets are either linked with a particular political party or periodically
receive financial support from politicians, aside from two or three online media resources funded
by foreign and international donor organizations.
However, the extent to which this has a direct
influence over the content of these media outlets cannot be easily assessed.
The financial model of Armenian online news resources is very similar to the model of the
traditional print and broadcast media, in that the political elite may lend support to certain outlets
through the channeling of advertising of government-loyal businesses. At the same time, websites
such as the A1+ news editorial (A1plus.am) and Lragir Daily (Lragir.am), both of which publish
articles that are critical of the government, are quite popular and have been able to survive
economically. There are neither formal nor practical barriers to receiving domestic or foreign aid
or advertisements, but foreign financial support is usually limited to modest grants and foreign
advertisers are usually not interested in the Armenian media market. A significant part of
advertising comes from mobile operators, car dealers, and consumer electronics sellers.
Armenian telecommunication regulations conform to the principles of technological neutrality,
meaning that regulations address legal issues rather than the use of a particular technology, service
type, or conditions. Naturally, some laws and regulations contain recommendations or applicable
standards, but there are no technology restrictions on bandwidth, protocols, or routing.
The emergence of online media has caused a significant increase in journalistic activities in Armenia.
Armenian media has traditionally been economically unsustainable due to the limited audience, high
operational costs, and small advertising market. Even at the peak of media production in Armenia,
daily newspapers usually published around 5,000 copies per day and few weekly outlets had more
than 10,000 readers.
The audience for television and radio was larger, but still limited to the
leading producers: five of the almost thirty television channels accounted for 76 percent of
Early online news outlets such as A1+ enjoyed significant growth in the number of daily
visitors during the first few years of production.
Armenian online news resources started growing from 2001 to 2005 when internet service became
relatively affordable. However, the main increase in production of online content—particularly
The only state owned newspaper is Hayastani Hanrapetutyun (“Republic Armenia”), which publishes governmental and
private announcements and the Official Bulletin (also publishes the Bulletin of Government). There is also a news website for
publishing general announcements and procurement information of the government, www.azdarar.am.
Based on interviews carried out with representative of Internews Armenia and the Center for Information Law and Policy.
1996–1998 could be referred to as a peak of Armenian post‐Soviet print press production according to press activities and
establishment of new press enterprises. Afterward the development of both television and press slowed down significantly.
AGB Nielsen Media Research, Armenia, 2011, http://www.agbnielsen.am/.
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video and audio content—started in 2008 after the liberalization of the market and the decrease in
the cost of broadband. Today, there are at least 30 leading online news outlets collecting more than
20,000 daily visitors—four times more than the leading press outlet—and covering political,
economic, and social issues. Since 2011, Armenia has seen the emergence of Armenian-language
online television programs. Although online video news services are still underdeveloped and
underused in Armenia, the public’s interest toward online video content is growing, and today at
least two leading web resources, Civilnet.am and Azatutyun.am, offer on-demand video news and
live-air reporting on major political and social events.
As of May 2013, there were more than 225 online media outlets and traditional media webpages
registered in Armenia.
Generally speaking, there are no formal or technical restrictions to
accessing different internet resources with diverse opinions. However, the extent to which a
particular news resource is well-known often depends on the financial support it receives. In other
words, despite the ability to access different outlets, choice is often predetermined by the ratings
and popularity of a given media outlet, which depend on investments that are usually political in
The majority of the population uses the internet mainly for social networking and as a less-
expensive alternative for voice and visual communication with relatives abroad. While those who
use the internet in Armenia mainly visit news websites or social networks, given the overall low
levels of daily internet use among the Armenian population, most Armenians still receive their
news from television programs.
Nevertheless, the population’s interest toward internet news
resources is growing, and the number of visitors to the leading news websites exceeds the number
of the leading newspapers’ readers.
Print copies of the leading Armenian newspapers—Aravot,
Hraparak, and Iravunk—usually do not exceed 5,000 issues, whereas online news websites collect
more than 50,000 unique visitors per day. At the same time, the audience for television and radio is
still larger than that of online news and video programming due to the absence of unified technical
Armenian online communities, especially blogs, are highly politicized and are likely to respond to
most political events. During the last three years, social media—Facebook in particular—has been
actively used for political and civil mobilization by the opposition and civil society activists. For
example, environmental activists have used internet resources for environmental alerts such as
forest cutting or illegal construction in green areas.
Another positive example of online
mobilization is the iDitord (iObserver) project, a crowdsourced election monitoring project
“Armenian web resources rating,” Circle.am, accessed June 26, 2013, http://circle.am/?cat=news&for=today&by=visits.
Most of the top 10 websites in Armenia are either online news services or television news video portals. “Armenian web
resource ratings,” Circle.am, accessed July 30, 2013, http://circle.am/.
“Armenian web resource ratings,” Circle.am.
According to interviews with Armenian media and telecommunication experts, such as the staff at Internews Armenia and
the Center for Information Law and Policy, there are two major obstacles for penetration of online video and television:
legislative barriers preventing telecommunication operators with foreign capital from carrying out broadcasting activities, and
the lack of unified technical solutions for IPTV subscriptions.
“Save the trees: trees without borders,” accessed July 30, 2013, http://kanach.am/.
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