The Internet climate in Oman is pretty dangerous and unforgiving. Reporters Without Borders ranked them dismally low at 134 out of 180 regarding countries with the harshest and strictest controls over the freedom of expression and information. But that really isn’t atypical for this part of the world, and you’ll find that a lot of neighboring countries have similar Internet laws and regulations that heavily censor content for cultural and political reasons.
You should know, however, that Oman not only practices strict Internet censorship but Internet surveillance as well. On the whole, most political content is accessible as long as it isn’t clearly obscene or aggressive, but political content is much more heavily censored. And one of the reasons that the government can so easily control the Internet is because their Internet infrastructure lacks competition. It is essentially a state controlled monopoly, and there aren’t many various ISPs for citizens and travelers to take advantage of. Though Oman does have a Telecommunications Regulatory Authority that was designed to increase the number of ISPs, the only viable option is Omantel – which is an ISP that is completely controlled by the state. They are an ISP that makes a profit and they are separate from the government, but the state has such a heavy influence on the only real ISP within the country, and through their influence and coercion they can effectively control the vast majority of the Internet within the country. One of the largest tools they use to implement their Internet regulations is a McAfee tool called SmartFilter.
Types of Filtering
In this area of the world, pornography is considered highly controversial and incredibly offensive. This is mainly due to religious and cultural reasons, and it naturally follows that the government would take great measures to censor this offensive content. But understand that their definition of pornography is much wider than it is in European and Western nations. Some social websites that portray pictures of people that are scantily clad, sexually suggestive, or provocatively dressed could easily be grounds for governmental censorship. But they also block content that relates to the gay and lesbian community with exception to websites that deal with gay rights. And as you might expect, websites concerning gambling, fraud, and computer hacking are also banned.
Not only is content blocked, but entire protocols and services have been blocked as well. In the past VoIP had been completely shut down unless you used tools like a VPN to encapsulate your data. And interestingly enough, the government has even tried to block access to websites that would help users circumvent the government’s restrictions – such as proxy services. Even though they have made efforts to block these kinds of sites, their only real ISP still allows VPN connections and it seems that the general population has turned to VPN services to safeguard their data, protect their anonymity, and browse the web free as a bird.
The government not only heavily censors the Internet, but they also implement strict surveillance measures as well – which is becoming more and more common across the globe. All types of domestic communications have been subject to the government’s surveillance such as mobile calls, email, text messages, and online exchanges through social media and chatrooms. In fact, back in 2012 there were many bloggers arrested for content they had posted online. The government tracked them down by using their IP address, and this inflamed discussions between organizations who advocate human rights. This led to many people claiming that the laws that set forth the freedom of expression were worded very poorly and left a lot of loop-holes that weren’t easily understood. The worst part was that the laws contained language that was so grey that bloggers and Internet users didn’t have a black-and-white way to discern if their content was offensive before they posted it. As such, it seems that the final ruling in these situations is simply a judgement call by the government.
But it gets worse. Oman has a fair few public Internet cafes, but there are some stringent controls put in place. Some of the regulations ‘strongly encourage’ any users’ screens to be constantly supervised, and they are even ‘encouraged’ to keep activity and usage logs of their customers.
Using a VPN in Oman
With so much control and involvement from the government, you would be making a huge mistake not to use a VPN tunnel while you are in Oman. Whether or not you live there or you are traveling, you need to take measures to protect yourself. Fortunately, a VPN tunnel will offer an immense amount of value and benefits. By using a VPN tunnel, you won’t only be able to access content that has been blocked and restricted, but the ISP and the government won’t be able to see your data as it is in transit across the public Internet. They won’t be able to see what servers you are accessing, what content you are viewing, or read the contents of your messages. Because VPNs are so crucial in this part of the world, let’s take a look at the best VPNs for Oman.
VyprVPN – Full Review
VyprVPN is a top choice for users in Oman owing to the fact that their parent company, Golden Frog, is actually based out of Switzerland – which isn’t that far away geographically. They also provide a lot of servers geographically close to Oman, and they operate their own data centers instead of renting out space. This gives them a high degree of control over their services because they don’t have to rely on outsourcing data center management. You’ll also love their free trial to gain a good understanding of how well their service works from Oman, so you’ll be able to test their service completely risk-free without having to worry about a money back guarantee.
NordVPN – Full Review
NordVPN is an effective solution to bypass restrictions and its high level of encryption, along with the advanced security features give you the perfect combination of online freedom and protection. You can connect to servers in over 50 countries, including multiple options that are convenient for users in Oman. If your main concern is privacy, you can use the double VPN encryption. If you want to bypass restrictions, you can try the ultra fast servers and obfuscation technology supported in many of the servers supported by NordVPN. This provider doesn’t keep any logs and it offers affordable plans.
ExpressVPN – Full Review
ExpressVPN is one of the leaders in the industry, and they are one of the most competitive providers. Their service is well-rounded and exceptional, and there are many reasons to love their VPN connections. With servers all around the world in 78 countries, you won’t have any problems finding the best server to connect to from Oman, either. And their VPN connections are so fast and reliable, in part, due to the fact that they don’t perform bandwidth throttling or cap your usage at a predefined data limit. The largest drawback to their service, however, is the fact that they cost more than most other providers, but understand that you get what you pay for. In addition, they have a 30-day money back guarantee to ensure that you are pleased with their service before making a long-term commitment.
Private Internet Access – Full Review
Private Internet Access is another provider with reasonable prices and high quality. It has over 3000 servers in 32 countries. While this sounds limited, PIA covers many locations that allow you to get access to the most popular content in the world. Users in Oman can benefit of the high encryption used by PIA and the fast speeds that are ideal for streaming, downloading or playing games. PIA supports advanced options like kill switch and it also includes SOCKS5 proxy with its plans. It doesn’t keep logs of your activities.
IronSocket – Full Review
IronSocket VPN is our last choice for users in Oman. While it is true that they aren’t as old as some of the other leading services in the VPN industry, there are certainly a lot of reasons to love their VPN connections. It’s true that they don’t have as many global locations as many other providers, but they do cover all of the major regions and currently have servers in 36 countries. The best features of their service include the ability to connect up to 3 devices with a single account, a 7-day money back guarantee, and an extremely affordable price. You can purchase their service for less than most other providers, and the price drops to $4.16 per month with a 1-year subscription.