CAIRO: The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology’s (MCIT) recent decision to cut the price of ADSL internet connections, while limiting the download capacity, has prompted an uproar among internet users, especially bloggers.
The cost of ADSL for the 256 kilobits per second speed went down from LE 95 per month to LE 45, part of the National Telecom Regulatory Authority’s (NTRA) initiative to increase internet penetration in the Egyptian market. The move will also limit monthly downloads to 2 gigabytes per month and any downloads beyond that will cost the user an extra LE 10 per gega.
The controversial price reduction will come into effect in September 2007, targeting “limited income groups who own computers with an average price of LE 1,300. “This will hurt a lot of people, said Osama Mohamed who runs an internet café in Zamalek. “It is impossible! If I want to download any large software I can use more than 2 gegas instantly, Mohamed said.
Moreover, architecture students who need to download large graphic design software from the internet will suffer greatly from the new regulation, he added.
“If I download 18 gegas a month this will mean an extra cost of more than a LE 100, I think the old system was cheaper, he said.
MCIT Minister Tarek Kamel reportedly said that the latest scheme would not be mandatory and that an alternative package would be available to internet cafés, with an unlimited download capacity.
According to Kamel, the Ministry’s research has indicated that the set limit is more than enough to satisfy the needs of the “average Egyptian family.
However, critics of the new regulation say that it will not be enough to allow users to download video or musical content, the fun stuff that gets the novice user hooked on the net to start with.
Censure of the new decision was prevalent among Egyptian internet chat groups and blogs, and none more so than on the Egyptian Awareness website posted by outspoken Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas.
The website posted an anonymous letter sent to Abbas allegedly from an MCIT insider who claims that the new regulation was dictated by State Security and Intelligence to curb the activities of bloggers.
Although the letter’s credibility could be questionable, the fact that MCIT officials are not available for comment outside the official press is making people more skeptical.
“To me it is simply blackmail to offer someone 24-hour high speed internet access and then limit the download capacity. It is unheard of anywhere else in the world, Abbas said.
Abbas also complains that the actual speeds provided by internet companies are lower than the speeds consumers are paying for. “When we enter certain websites we can observe the internet speed, and it is usually lower than the 256 kbs promised by providers. The NTRA should at least guarantee that consumers are really getting what they paid for, Abbas said.
The MCIT Minister recently said that internet cable wires that are shared illegally by more than one household have deteriorated the quality of the service.
“It is either a scheme to get money for inept services or simply a dubious way to limit the activities of bloggers who have been an alert force in the exposure of corruption in Egyptian society, Abbas said.