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The APC European Internet Rights Project

Country Report — FYR Macedonia

By Christina Haralanova

GDP per Capita $1,690 (1999) [1]
Population: 2,041 million (July 2000)
Phone Lines: 762,997 (December 2000)
Teledensity: 37.3 %
Internet hosts 200 (June 2000)

As in many Balkan countries, in FYROM responsibility for administration of the Internet is divided. The first connection was set up in 1995 by MARNet, the Macedonian Academic and Research Network. That same year the first Macedonian web server was set up by the Macedonian Open Society Institute. At the same time, Makedonski Tlecomunikacii (The Macedonian Telecommunication Company, MT) opened its first connection, a 90.2KB link to Hungary. MARNet now connects universities in Skopje and Bitola, as well as some government ministries, serving 25,000 students and 2,000 teachers and other associates. It now connects partly through MT and partly through its own 64KB link to the University of Vienna.

Macedonian Telecom (MT), which did not have the built-in user group that MARNet did, began with 70 users and a growth rate of 40-50 new users per month. Along the way the links were upgraded and now include a 256Kbps link to Teleglobe Canada, a 2MB leased line connection to British Telecom and leased lines to Deutsche Telecom.

The number of Internet users at the end of 1998 was 4,000 (0.2% of the population), and by the end of 1999 10,000 (0.5% of the population). In December 2000 there were 20,000 (1% of the population) Internet users. At the end of 1998 there were 2,000 e-commerce users, growing to 4,500 in 1999 and 8,000 in 2000.

What happens in FYROM may well depend on the conflict with its neighbour Serbia. If NATO troops are to be stationed there on a long-term basis then upgrading Internet facilities may happen much quicker. [2]

Telecommunication Infrastructure

Fixed Telephone lines

The Macedonian Telecommunication Company is the national monopoly telecommunication operator in FYROM. MT provides basic telecommunication services including local, long distance calls and international traffic, leased lines, cellular mobile services and Internet access. MT has made a major effort to put routers in and upgrade connections to other cities like Ochrid, Bitola, Tetova, Kumanovo and Stip, and also to raise the average speed of dial-up connections. By December 1999 71% of the network was digitalised.

Until the end of 1996, the Macedonian PTT functioned as a state-owned company providing national and international telecommunications and postal services. At the beginning of 1997, it was divided into two new state-owned companies: Macedonian Posts and Macedonian Telecommunications.

In December 2000, the Macedonian government sold a 51 percent stake of MT to the Hungarian Telecommunication Company MATAV. This was the biggest single foreign investment in the country since the funding of FYROM in 1991. Although the Greek OTE had offered more than MATAV’s 343,314,744 EURO, the government was impressed with the Hungarian company’s pledges to further develop the phone network. Another reason for not offering MT to OTE, however, may have been the increasing resistance to selling further “strategic” enterprises to Greek companies. [3]

Macedonian Mobile operator

The first and only GSM operator, called MobiMak, is owned by MT. It started up in October 1997 with 25,000 subscribers. Currently, MobiMak has 115,000 active customers who can utilize GSM services in around 48 countries all over the world. It covers 90% of the Macedonian population and 70 % of the territory. [4]

Regulation of telecommunications and alternative networks

The Telecommunications Act and several other regulations define MT as the monopoly operator for the provision of basic services, and set out the conditions for involvement of new operators in the provision of all other value-added services. MT provides all national and international public telecommunications services. It handles landline and cellular communication services, data transmission, satellite connection services, cable TV and broadcasting. [5]

According to the Macedonian Telecommunications Act, the MT shall have the exclusive right, until 31 December 2004, to provide all kinds of telecommunication services Until that time, no legal or natural person, except the MT, may:
  • Provide fixed voice telephony services, telegraphy services, telex services, public pay-phone services or leased line services or construct, own and operate fixed public telecommunication networks.

  • Provide, organize, advertise, promote or in any other way take part in organizing call-back services

So far, Macedonian Railway, Electric Power Company of FYROM and Makpetrol - TEAS (established by the Macedonian leading oil Company) have established their own telecommunication networks. They are continuing their efforts to upgrade and modernize their telecommunications resources. [6]

Availability of Internet Access in Macedonia

In 1995, the former Macedonian PTT, now Makedonski Telecomunikacii (MT) started offering its customers access to the Internet. Dial-up access was offered for residential and small business users and leased lines were available for business users.

In FYROM only MT has its own infrastructure. Other ISPs are connected to the Internet through MT.

Connecting to the Internet in FYROM

Currently there are three ways of obtaining Internet access in FYROM. One can access the Internet through an educational institution, an Internet cafe or through a commercial ISP. [7]

Access at Universities

In order to obtain an account at an educational institution one has to be a full time student, faculty, or staff member at the institution. Currently accounts can be accessed only through the terminals at the Universities since the dial-ups are available only to Macedonian Academic and Research Net employees.

Internet Cafes

There are numerous Internet cafes throughout FYROM. The biggest ones are 3DX in Skopje, Astoria (the first Macedonian Internet café), Felix, DC etc.

Commercial Access

There is a small number of ISPs in FYROM, the major ones of which are as follows:
  1. Makedonski Telekomunikaccii is the main provider with fast terrestrial and satellite links providing access to most other Internet services providers.

  2. Macedonia OnLine offers a full set of Internet Service products from dial-up modem and ISDN connections to leased line and web hosting services.

  3. Porta ISP is provided by the Internet arm of the Macedonian Post. They provide a full range of services with a particularly competitive dial-up ISDN service.

  4. Unet is one of the oldest Macedonian ISPs. They offer a full range of services including: dial-up and leased lines, private networks, manuals and skills, web registration with search engines, web-hosting, domain registration services etc.

  5. MKInter offers a wide range of connections to the Internet, including dial-up and leased lines ranging from 33/6 to 128 Kbps.

  6. Informa is a full service ISP and also a software development company.

  7. Sonet is an ISP supported by the Open Society foundation. Its Internet program operated until 1995 as a non-profit ISP, providing Internet connection for non-governmental organizations, high schools, hospitals, libraries, museums and individual users. Currently it is a commercial ISP. [8]

Local content in local languages

There are several portals in local languages providing day-to-day news and information; the main ones are: MTNet, MakNet, and Skopje OnLine. There are also portals for the main newspapers and the Macedonian News Agency. Most government institutions have their own web sites, mostly produced in both Macedonian and English.

The main obstacles to development of the Net are:
  • Low levels of general network literacy

  • MT monopoly over Internet connections

  • Development of the Internet is not a priority for national and international authorities

MT is making efforts to increase awareness of the Internet and its sociological use amongst Macedonian citizens, and to increase support for Internet applications, especially those helping the financial, cultural and social development of society.

Macedonian ISPs - degree of regulation and/or control by the government

“Free access to information and the freedom of to receive and transmit information are guaranteed... The right to protect a source of information in the mass media is guaranteed. Censorship is prohibited” (Article 16 of the Constitution of FYROM)

“Each citizen is guaranteed the respect and protection of the privacy of his/her personal and family life and his dignity and repute.” (Article 25). [9]

Human Rights Groups, such as the Macedonian Helsinki Committee, reported no government restrictions on their work in 1999. Freedom of the press was generally respected in 1999, as many private radio and TV stations and printed media operated throughout the country. [10]

There is at present no content restriction of any kind in FYROM and there are no plans for such restrictions in the near future. All Internet access and web sites in FYROM are free and uncensored.

May 2001

List of Sources

[1] The United States Agency for International Development, country report about FYROM; see

[2] Open Society Institute’s Internet Program; see

[3] Transitions OnLine magazine; see

[4] More information about the Macedonian Telecommunication Company can be found on

[5] US Trade and Development Agency; see:

[6] Master Report on ‘Alternative Networks’ in Macedonia, covering the period October 1999 - January 2001;



[9] Full text of the constitution of the FYROM on:

[10] Full text of the Human Rights Developments in FYROM Report for 1999 canbe read on:

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