RealTime IT News

"Cheaper" Internet Access in Slovakia Doesn't Solve Anything

This week the Slovak monopoly telecommunication company Slovenske Telekomunikacie (ST) made significant changes in its telephone rates in an attempt to facilitate easier Internet access.

Local calls are becoming more expensive while long-distance rates decreased. The company also announced lower rates for dial-up Internet access starting September 1. However, critics say the reduction is negligible and does not solve the unsatisfactory Internet access situation in the country.

In Slovakia, all dial-up Internet access is done via special access numbers assigned to ISPs, giving ST a way to distinguish between data and voice service and apply different tariffs. During work hours, i.e. 7am - 7pm, Slovak customers currently pay Sk 63 (US$ 1.4) per hour. After the September 1, they will pay almost the same price (Sk 60).

The rates can be interpreted by ST as reduction, because several other telephone tariffs became more expensive. The price of local telephone calls has grown by 20 per cent; Internet access, if not being treated as special case, could increase by the same rate.

Only night and weekend tariffs were really reduced. One hour of Internet access by night, which currently costs Sk 31,50 (US$ 0.7) is going down to Sk 20 (US$ 0.45). Beside these tariffs, Slovak customers of course pay their ISP. The average cost associated with Internet access in Slovakia can be estimated as Sk 1,100 (US$ 25) per month. Compared with average wage, which now reaches approximately Sk 10.000 (US$ 227) per month, Internet costs seem to be quite prohibitive.

The number of Internet users in Slovakia is estimated as about 75,000 of the 5.3 million total population -- almost the smallest among European post-communist countries (only Russia has lower Internet usage per head).