A Fox News report claims that Iran's telecommunications agency has announced the Gmail has been permanently suspended and that Iran will soon offer a national e-mail service, presumably to give the government more control over how Iranian citizens communicate.
Google confirmed Gmail access problems in Iran but did not comment on the role of Iranian authorities or the possible cause of the outage.
"We have heard from users in Iran that they are having trouble accessing Gmail," said Jill Hazelbaker, Google's director of corporate communications, in an e-mail. "We can confirm a sharp drop in traffic and we have looked at our own networks and found that they are working properly. Whenever we encounter blocks in our services we try to resolve them as quickly as possibly because we strongly believe that people everywhere should have the ability to communicate freely online. Sadly, sometimes it is not within our control."
Hazelbaker offered no response to the question of whether the recent launch of Google Buzz, which added social networking capabilities to Gmail, may have contributed to the apparent move against Gmail.
Iran has a long history of blocking Internet communication services that are perceived to threaten the Islamic regime. The apparent closure of Gmail coincides with efforts by authorities to deter any antigovernment protest planned to coincide with the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on February 11.
A variety of news organizations are reporting that Internet service in Iran has been degraded in advance of the revolution's anniversary.
According to a report published on the PBS Media Shift blog, Iranian authorities recently arrested two Iranian bloggers, Mehrdad Rahimi and Kouhyar Goudarzi, under the charge of warring against God, which carries a possible death penalty.