Reducing Internet costs
DESPITE advancements in the telecom sector, for which Pakistan even received an international award in 2006, people are still paying a lot for Internet access compared to neighbouring countries.
This was ascertained at the first broadband congress held in Sri Lanka this month where it was discovered that Pakistanis pay around $2,660 a year for broadband compared to $242 in Sri Lanka, $223 in India and just $112 in the Maldives. This needs to be addressed if progress is to be made.
While the government has done well to promote information technology, it has not firmly pursued policies to ensure that access to the Internet is easy or affordable.
Policies seem to have favoured Internet Service Providers more than the consumers. Many ISPs have been criticised for taking on too many users because of which the download speed is slow, therefore frustrating.
The introduction of broadband technology as well as wireless Internet access removes these constraints but is way out of reach financially for millions of users.
There are some things the government can do to change this. It needs to see what progress has been made on the broadband policy adopted in Jan 2005. It can also ensure that public schools and colleges have high speed access to the Internet as most students cannot access it otherwise at home.
Perhaps it can study India’s model which has ambitious plans of meeting the target of 100 million broadband users by 2015. However, no real progress can be made without addressing the price issue.
One speaker at the conference said that the way to do so is to encourage large telecom operators to allow other firms to access their telephone exchanges (local loops).
This sharing of wires will allow other companies to come up and offer a range of services which promote a level playing field.