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Internet Providers File Suit Against Slovak Telecom

BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA -- Slovak Internet providers filed a suit against local telecommunication company Slovenske telekomunikacie, a. s. (ST), a state-guaranteed monopoly in which Deutsche Telekom holds a 51 percent stake. The providers are alleging that ST does not obey the ruling of the market regulator.

Slovak Internet providers, represented by their Association (API), entered into dispute with ST in October 2000. It came to light then that ST intentionally places so-called frequency filters on lines used by its customers - and customers of ISPs - for data transfers. Those filters slow down the data communication via the line. In order to have the filters removed, customers have to pay ST for installing a digital circuit; it consists simply in removing the filter again.

Providers who disclosed this strange practice filed a complaint to the Slovak Anti-Monopoly Office (Protimonopolny urad, PMU). PMU ruled at February 22 that filters are illegal, ordered ST to remove them and to pay a fine 10 million SKK (US$ 200,000). Providers have checked the situation immediately after the deadline set by PMU and have found that filters are still working. Therefore, they filed a suit asking the court to urge ST to obey the PMU ruling. ST spokeswoman, Ms Gabriela Nemkyova, said that ST had already begun to fulfill the requirements of the ruling.

Members of API partly rely on Deutsche Telekom. They publicly expressed the hope that such a respectable company could not afford to violate local law. A reaction from Deutsche Telekom is currently unavailable. Some insiders say that the company may be testing the limits and recognizing how far can it go on one of the few European non-liberalized telecommunication markets. The monopoly of ST for local calls will end at January 1, 2003.



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