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Wednesday, 26 November 2008 00:00

Understanding the Internet in Turkey

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What would an expat’s life be without the Internet? Well, probably not half as beautiful!

Say, did you ever think about the amount of work we actually do on the Web?

Mailing family, chatting, dating and networking with friends, paying bills, reading newspapers, finding an address or finding help in an online forum, and even in our free time, we use to browse the Web in search of some inspiration.

That’s reason enough for Today’s Zaman to get a bit into Turkish Internet technology. We’ll look at Turkish rates and access compared with the rest of the world, focus on the Internet’s structure specific to Turkey and explain the best ways to go about troubleshooting. Let’s first have a look into the use of the Internet in Turkey. Cengiz Hakan Aydın, an assistant professor in the School of Communication Sciences at Anadolu University in Eskişehir, collected some facts and figures in a recent paper. The first computer network connection in Turkey was established in 1990; universities were the dominant users during the first years, he explains. It took until the mid-1990s for Internet use to show rapid development in Turkey. The increase was especially great between 1996 and 1997. Whereas only 7,000 Turkish hosts were connected to the Internet in July 1996, this number reached 15,000 by January 1997 and 100,000 by 2001.

According to an older survey by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), around 7 percent of people in Turkey had Internet access in 2001. At that time, the average number of users per computer connected to the Internet was 752, which was high compared with other European countries. The interest in Internet usage was high, but some were still lacking the adequate financial means.

According to the survey, users spent their time on the Internet mostly for e-mailing (23 percent), conducting research (22.3 percent) and chatting (16.5 percent). Today, the number of Turkish Internet users is estimated to be as high as 20 million, putting Turkey seventh among European counties.

Connection services in Turkey

So what kinds of Internet connection services are available in Turkey, and how do they work? Service is either provided through phone lines or cable TV lines. Internet connection through a cable TV network provides a faster connection speed and has the added bonus of not tying up your phone when you are connected to the Internet. Unfortunately it is not available in every district. In districts with no cable network, Türk Telekom provides service via modem lines.

Generally, both types are provided by Türk Telekom or by private companies using Turk Telekom’s communication lines. Today, nearly all Turkish universities are connected to the Internet, and about 50 Internet service providers (ISPs) offer services via Turkish Telecom’s monopoly. In fact, other companies are trying to override Türk Telekom’s monopoly by using satellite technology, but Türk Telekom is preventing this. Competitors include E-kolay, the Internet service provider of Doğan Media, one of the country’s largest media establishments; Superonline, which is a subsidiary of Yapı Kredi Bankası; or, which partners with Sabancı Holding.

Over the past decade, Turkey’s telecommunication industry has boomed, and driven by ongoing market liberalization, the Turkish market for information and communication technologies is still growing. According to the Turkish Informatics Industry Association (TÜBİSAD), the market reached $23.5 billion in 2007, an increase of 12.4 percent from 2006. The market, which more than doubled from 2003, has had double-digit growth over the past five years in contrast to the single-digit expansion in the US and the European Union.

A major problem is the speed of international connectivity. Some numbers: The current download/upload speed options are 1024/256, 2048/512 or 4096/1024 kb. The age of the phone and electricity lines may be additional factors that affect connectivity speed. But in May, started offering ADSL service using BitStream Access, using its own infrastructure rather than reselling Türk Telekom’s.

And last but not least, another problem might be errors on the Internet. Those annoying error messages can drive someone crazy. Do you know the difference between a 404 error and a 502 error? Many times they have more to do with the Web servers you’re trying to access than something being wrong with your computer. At, you can find a list of error messages you might encounter while surfing the Web and their respective meanings to help you figure out just what the problem is and whether it is in your hands to solve it. By the way, in case the error message is about a banned Web site, this is surely not a great figurehead for the state of the Turkish democracy. Web sites such as, for example, allows you to simply get around the barrier and check out what you want.

And at the end, we have one more hint: A group that is following such developments closely is the Istanbul Chapter of the Internet Society (İSOCTR), They are trying to provide the general public with facts about the Internet and are also doing their best to keep the Internet a free platform in Turkey. “We have a duty to tell users their rights and help them to defend them,” their Web site states.


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