tamas bodoky on Fri, 9 Jan 1998 06:11:41 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> Hungarian netizens against phone company

Hungarian netizens against phone company

BUDAPEST (January 8, 1998) Notabilities of Hungarian online forums issued
an open letter to Elek Straub, chairman and CEO of MATÁV Hungarian
Telecommunications Company Ltd., claiming a tariff policy that helps the
development of Internet-culture in Hungary. This letter is considered the
greatest organized demonstration of Hungarian net community yet.

In Hungary local calls are charged per minute therefore Internet users can
hardly avoid browsing the web during the night, in the cheapest off-peak
hours. However, since 1994 off-peak tariff has been raised by 445%, in
spite that peak time tariff increase was only 303%.

Heads of all the major Hungarian online forums and Internet-related
cultural institutions were ready to sign the open letter which was
initiated by the editorial board of iNteRNeTTo, the leading Hungarian
webzine of IDG Hungary.(<http://www.internetto.hu/>http://www.internetto.hu)
This is the first instance that members of Hungarian netizens express
disapproval unanimously.

According to the letter it is paradoxical that the short-term interests of
the national telco can impede the development of information society which
is treated as the key element of Hungary's Euro-Atlantic integration. It
is noted that MATAV has already expressed its firm interest in
developing Hungarian Internet culture by offering generous public
donations. Last May the company launched a special service for Internet
service providers that enables them to offer long-distance dial-up number
for local tariff, however, only a few ISPs were able to undertake the

The open letter has been e-mailed to 40.000 netizens through popular
mailing lists. In Hungary the number of Internet-users has reached 200 000
by 1997 and this number is expected to double yearly. A major national
project was launched in 1997 to offer Internet-access to 350.000 high
school students by this September. Political parties also realized the
potentials of the new media: both governing and opposition parties run
websites. The next general elections in Hungary will be held this May.

Hungary had a centrally run and owned telecommunications operator. This
had an old and inefficient network, and provided poor services.
Teledensity was low below 10% in 1990 and waiting lists were long. In 1993
MATAV, the state-owned operator was partly privatised. Ameritech and
Deutsche Telekom took a 30% stake (this was raised to 67% in 1995).
MATAV was granted the monopoly on long-distance and international
traffic until 2002. The country was divided into 54 exclusive franchise
areas, and MATAV won 36 of these, including Budapest. It now provides
services for 7.6 million people, out of a total population of 10.3
million. Each operator was granted a legally protected monopoly until
2002 in exchange for compliance with a roll-out plan.

This programme has proved successful: the number of lines has grown from
1.3 million in 1992 to 2.9 million in 1997. The Ministry of Transport,
Communications and Water Management is responsible for policy and tariff
decrees. Maximum tariffs are set annually for each service offered by the

iNteRNeTTo regularly offers live shows and on-line interviews with
well-known politicians and intellectuals in addition to its daily updated
news and entertainment sections. About a year ago Hungarian Prime
Minister, Gyula Horn, was the guest of iNteRNeTTo and a few weeks later
MATAV CEO, Elek Straub. The webzine was founded in 1995. The number of
readers reach 25 000 per week, its free weekly newsletter is mailed to
16.000 addresses.

For more information, contact Andras Nyírő, editor-in-chief

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