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Iranian firms told not to use foreign email providers

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Iran has reportedly banned some domestic companies from using foreign email services and hosting providers, as its attempts to create an autonomous, nationwide intranet gather pace.

Local weekly Asr Ertebatat claimed on Saturday that Iran’s telecommunications ministry is preventing banks, insurance firms and telephone operators from using the services of foreign email providers such as Yahoo!, Gmail and Microsoft.

The ministry has also banned the firms from using foreign hosts for their sites.

The companies, and perhaps more importantly, any customer or client wishing to communicate with them must do so with an email address ending in ‘iran.ir’, ‘post.ir’ or ‘chmail.ir’.

The government and related bodies must use ‘gov.ir’ or ‘.ir’ addresses, while universities have been ordered to use ‘ac.ir’ or ‘.ir’ suffixes.

The Islamic republic had previously announced an “Iranian Internet” would be up and running as of May to ensure that public bodies, banks and state-controlled enterprises are not reliant on foreign tech firms for online communications.

But there is some debate over the extent of Iran’s plans to effectively cut itself off from the global internet.

A story doing the rounds last month that the country was building a "clean Internet" was reportedly denied by officials as an April Fool’s Day joke.

Others have suggested, meanwhile, that any attempts to create a truly autonomous network would fail as users find ways of circumventing the government’s controls.

The Iranian authorities certainly have reason to pursue their plans, as they see the web as a key facilitator of the widespread protests that followed the 2009 election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. ®

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