Neighboring Georgia was also labeled a “free country.” Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan are partly free, while Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan were rated as “not free,” by the report.
The report says Internet penetration rates in Armenia have continued to improve over the past few years, alongside improvements in the stability of the Internet’s infrastructure and relatively few restrictions on online content. Additionally, citizen groups and NGOs have made use of online communication tools to promote and organize campaigns, particularly surrounding the protests in Yerevan against hikes in electricity prices in mid-2015.
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Internet penetration rate reached 46 percent by the end of 2014, compared with 42 percent in 2013 and just 15 percent in 2009. The Public Service Regulatory Committee of Armenia estimates the rate to be slightly higher, at 50 percent in 2014.
The mobile penetration rate in Armenia was 116 percent as of 2014, and the number of mobile broadband subscriptions is also growing. As of December 2014, broadband subscriptions reached 257,610, an increase of 16,934 compared with that of the same period in 2013.
There have been no reports of restrictions on Internet access imposed by the government or temporary disconnections from the Internet since June 2014. In practice, the Armenian government and the telecommunication regulatory authority, the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSCR), do not interfere with or try to influence the planning of network topology. Operators plan and develop their networks without any coordination with either the government or the regulatory authority. Moreover, the regulatory authority requires service providers to indicate any technological restrictions in their public offers. Armenian Internet users enjoy access to Internet resources without limitation, including peer-to-peer networks, voice and instant messaging services.
Armenian Internet users are able to access a wide array of content online, though online media outlets based within the country are subject to financial and political pressures. Currently, self-censorship is not a widespread practice in the online sphere. The Armenian government and the ruling political elite have not applied extralegal measures to prevent political opponents or independent internet resources from publishing online content.
Technical attacks against government websites and civil society groups continue, with most of the attacks originating from the “Anti-Armenia” group based in Azerbaijan.
In addition, Turkish hackers from the Turk Hack Team group claimed that they launched DDoS attacks against websites of the Armenian government, as well as Armenian business and media sites, causing disruptions on April 24, Armenian Genocide commemoration day. However, there were no interruptions recorded by these entities.
Freedom on the Net 2015 found that Internet freedom overall around the world declined for a fifth consecutive year as more governments censored information of public interest while also expanding surveillance and cracking down on privacy tools.