Ukrainian telecom Vega has announced it is discontinuing its free hosting service as of October 15, according to Dutch publication telecompaper. Vega subsidiary IP Telecom had originally offered the free service, and Vega will attempt to convert its customers to paying subscribers. Free web hosting is a market building tool used in diverse developing markets. Internet use in the Ukraine, while growing, is still well below that in Western Europe.
Vega became the Ukraine’s sole BT business services reseller in 2013 and announced a partnership with Oll.tv to expand IPTV offerings last week.
IP Telecom was a Kiev-based ISP, which was part of the original 2008 merger which created Vega Telecommunications Group. Vega was acquired as part of a larger deal in 2005 by System Capital Management (SCM), a tech and industrial giant based in Donetsk.
Donetsk was shelled Tuesday during violence between Ukrainian and Russian separatist forces. SCM owner Rinat Akhmetov’s role in the unrest appears to be uncertain and controversial. The shuttering of a free hosting service based in Kiev by an alleged separatist oligarch could add to that controversy.
Donetsk separatist leader Pavel Gubarev said in a May interview that Akhmetov is a key financier for the rebels. However Akhmetov has publicly criticized elements of the rebellion, while some separatists have threatened to “nationalize” SCM according to the BBC.
The conflict in Eastern Ukraine has spilled onto the internet, with “hacktivism” and DDoS attacks targeting both sides. Maintaining hardware and infrastructure for free services in such an environment may be too onerous and risky for Vega, providing another possible reason for the timing of the announcement.