President Idriss Deby has officially inaugurated a fibre-optic network connecting the capital N’Djamena with Adre on the Sudanese border as part of the ICT ministry’s ‘Digital Chad’ event. The system has been under construction since June 2014, sector watchdog the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Post (L’Autorite de Regulation des Communications Electroniques et des Postes, ARCEP) noted in a statement, adding that the system also connects twelve other cities, each of which has between 2km and 5km of intra-city fibre. ARCEP’s head explained that the completion of the system would allow Chad to ‘provide national operators with a capacity of 100GB, of which 40GB is already available’. Minister of Posts and New Information and Communication Technologies Dr Idriss Saleh Bachar noted, meanwhile, that the deployment potentially opens up the landlocked nation, via Sudan, to submarine cables landing on the eastern coast of Africa. The minister went on to praise Chadian-Sudanese venture SUDATCHAD, which is licensed to manage the network, saying: ‘the concession not only offers the state the best means necessary to ensure compliance with its national policy, but also allows a significant decrease in tariffs to correlate access tariffs to consumers’ purchasing power’. Elsewhere, construction of the Trans-Saharan Fibre-Optic Backbone, which will connect Chad to Algeria through Niger, began last month and is expected to give the nation access to submarine cables in the Mediterranean.
At the even the president also ordered the immediate lifting of ‘all restrictive measures on social networks’. The government has throttled internet access since March 2018 on national security grounds, though the state has been widely criticised for using the measure to restrict the regime’s critics capacity to oppose or protest against an amendment to the constitution (proposed that month and passed in May 2018) that will also Deby to remain in power until 2033. In removing the restrictions, President Deby said: ‘For the past few months, security imperatives have led the government to tighten access conditions and control measures for electronic communications. For a country like Chad that had had dark hours, it is not permissible for the internet to be diverted for malicious purposes by certain individuals with fatal intentions for peace and national unity’. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, a group of Chadian lawyers had attempted to hold the nation’s cellcos to account for the restrictions on internet access, claiming the companies were violating the commercial terms of their contracts with consumers. The providers argued that they were following the government’s instructions, and the case was rejected.