Internet rate cut may not benefit users -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Internet rate cut may not benefit users

KARACHI- Pakistan will reduce Internet connection charges for internet service providers (1SPs) by more than 50 per cent but their representative body said it will not pass on the benefit to users.

The government has reduced the charges as part of an attempt to boost the use of Internet and the information technology industry. However, its latest measure may be frustrated by the unwillingness of ISPs to pass on the reduction to customers.

The 1SPs are wholly dependent upon Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation Limited (PTCL) for all their links to the Internet. The government will reduce tariffs by 53 per cent for leased connections for ISPs from next month.

Science and Technology Minister Ataur Rehman has said the move was aimed at developing information technology sector. The government also plans to set up information technology parks in major cities and arrange free internet connections for universities.

Industry officials have often blamed high ISP charges for hampering growth of the information technology industry in Pakistan, which has an estimated 160,000 internet users served by some 50 ISPS. However, the representative body of service providers said the ISPs would not pass on the reductions to customers. “Our tariff levels will remain the same,” said Sanaullah Butta, President of the Internet Service Providers Association.

Butta said consumers would indirectly benefit from the decision as it would allow ISPs to invest more in upgrading their facilities. “It will in turn benefit consumers because of the cut in downloading time and enhanced quality of service will reduce their bills,” he said.

However, users said the reductions should be passed on. “We expect ISPs to reduce their tariff accordingly,” said Mohammad Qaiser, an internet user. “It would be unfair if benefits of tariff reduction is not passed on to consumers.”

Pakistan is expected to unveil its first IT policy early next month, easing regulations to develop the industry. The Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf listed the promotion of the information technology industry as one of his top priorities. Under the policy, various initiatives are being framed to boost software exports. Pakistan’s software exports account for only 0.5 per cent of its $8 billion annual exports. In the past fiscal year, the country’s software exports stood at $40 million and are expected to reach $60 million this year.

Source: The News