CUSTOMERS of the Slovak Telecom (ST) monopoly have the worst conditions for Internet access among Visegrad Four countries, says the civic association Internet for Everyone (IPV).
The group was responding to an ST price hike from August 1 that raised the cost of off-peak Internet connections through telephone lines by Sk6 to Sk29.52 ($0.64) per hour.
Internet for Everyone, backed by other non-governmental organisations, says that the most recent increase means that Internet access prices in Slovakia have risen by 66 per cent since summer 2001, but higher prices have not led to an improved range of services.
"We think this is an unacceptable increase, which will have to be paid by average Slovak citizens," said IPV's Peter Polakovič.
ST, however, says that economic reality had made the rise in tariffs necessary.
"Current legislation in our country, as well as other countries of the European Union forces our company to set our prices with respect to costs. Which means that we have to adjust prices to current and real costs of our company," said ST spokesperson Gabriela Nemkyová.
Moreover, said Nemkyová, ST-published calculations comparing the pre-tax prices of standard products from individual operators show that the Slovak operator's prices are the cheapest among the Visegrad Group countries during peak as well as off-peak hours.
Although acknowledging that telecom customers in the Czech Republic pay less than ST's charges per hour for off-peak Internet connection, Nemkyová explained that the difference is caused by lower taxes in the Czech Republic.
"The tax money, which raises the price, goes to the state budget and not to telecom operators," she added.
Nemkyová admitted that ST's calculations are based on standard products of individual operators, who also offer more flexible product packages at more advantageous prices, some of which are seasonal.
At the moment, Slovak Internet users on average must pay more than twice the amount users pay in Czech Republic, partially because of special summer promotions by Czech Telecom. Other summer Internet promotions have been offered in Poland and Hungary.
12. Aug 2002 at 0:00 | Miroslav Karpaty