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.

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