If you’re planning a trip to Beirut, you might want to think carefully about starting an internet phone call. Lebanon’s cabinet has agreed to implement a 20-cent daily fee for VoIP calls across a range of services, including FaceTime Audio and WhatsApp. The government believes it needs the cash — it recently declared an “economic emergency” as it raced to secure funding and eliminate debts, and the internet calling fee is estimated to rake in a substantial $200 million per year.
This wouldn’t come without some kind of compensation. Telecom Minister Mohamed Chouchair promised “something in return” to be made public next week.
This isn’t exactly an exorbitant fee. If you feel compelled to make a Facebook Messenger call while you’re in Beirut, you can talk to your heart’s content once the call starts. However, it could deter people from using VoIP regularly. They might resort to sending voice messages or video chats. And when there are only two (government-controlled) carriers in Lebanon, you can’t just use an indie provider to help you skirt around the ban on voice.