When telecom regulators in Dubai cut access to the popular Internet phone program Skype, the price of international calling skyrocketed.

The shutdown triggered an uproar among foreign residents, who form about 80 percent of the population of the United Arab Emirates, a wealthy and relatively liberal Middle Eastern country with some of the world's highest levels of Internet penetration.

As the ban was phased in, Internet voice connections that cost about 2 cents a minute went dead. The remaining option was a bitter one: Pay about 75 cents per minute to phone Britain and 60 cents to call the United States during peak hours.

"It's infuriating to lose the freedom to call people," said Rupert Chesman, 27, a Londoner who works as a TV producer in Dubai. "People just want to phone home and now they can't."

Etisalat, the Emirates' chief telecom and Internet provider, began to block Skype and other Internet phone providers this summer, arguing that they had no license to sell phone service. Etisalat's profits have soared since then.

The unannounced clampdown even woke up Dubai's normally docile press, which devoted pages to expatriates railing at the shutdown. A recent editorial in the pro-government Gulf News said the ban was stifling technology that ought to be embraced.

Get the full story at The Associated Press