RealTime IT News

Saudi Arabia Sets Limits on Internet Access Rates

With online service set to debut in Saudi Arabia next month, The King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) set limits last week on Internet access charges.

KACST officials said they had agreed on a minimum charge of 40 cents an hour and a maximum of $1.20. There is also a fixed monthly charge of at least $27 and at most $40.

Apart from the ISP charges, users will also have to pay the Saudi Telecommunications Co. a dial-up charge.

Several ISPs complained the rates were too high, while others expressed dissatisfaction with limiting Internet access rates in the first place. They argued that this would benefit the user but would be highly damaging for ISPs.

A number of executives said the accumulative nature of the charges would render harm to ISP competitiveness.

But a KACST Internet specialist told Reuters that ISP proposals on charges had been taken into consideration when the limits were set.

The official said given the price limits, ISPs would compete for customers on value-added services, rather than just run-of-the-mill services like Web access and e-mail. He further added that the charge limits apply only to dial-up customers and not leased-line users, like government agencies and large organizations.

The KACST will link the ISPs to a main server in the technology city. This server would have a firewall to block certain sites deemed inappropriate by authorities in the conservative Muslim country.

At present, most people in Saudi Arabia wishing to access the Internet have to dial up to ISPs in neighboring Gulf Arab states, which also bar access to some Web sites. A few official bodies in Saudi Arabia already have some access to the Internet.