By Vitaly Vasiliev
Beltelecom, the national telecommunications operator, is to lose its exclusive right over external channels of communications, according to the new law. The document aims to end the monopoly of the operator over the telecommunications market but private Internet providers are far from satisfied. “Monopoly over international traffic and joining the networks of foreign states is removed but operators can still only connect through Beltelecom,” explains Andrey Nareiko, Chairman of Belinfocom Association (speaking on www.providers.by).
According to Mr. Nareiko, at present, mobile operators and providers cannot directly interact with each other, but ‘must find a junction with the Beltelecom network and reroute their traffic’. He believes that this is leading to increased tariffs for subscribers and slower development of the telecommunications network.
Lawyers also have serious concerns over the draft law ‘On Telecommunications’. The House of Representatives explains that the document doesn’t take into account the norms of the Presidential Decree ‘On Some Measures to Develop Data Transfer Networks in the Republic of Belarus’. According to Sergei Semashko, the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the House of Representatives for Industry, Fuel and Energy Complex, Transport and Communications, the draft law should be ‘reconsidered more drastically’ once the Decree has been released. Law-makers have decided not to adopt the document only to introduce amendments, wishing to polish it initially.
The decision is good, but I’d like to note that today’s consumers of telecommunications services (we primarily refer to the Internet) aren’t very keen on the law-making process. These consumers, especially youngsters, are more concerned about access and the speed of the Internet. The topic was widely discussed during the Question to the President campaign, with Alexander Lukashenko. Students from Brest have also raised this issue.
It is a topical issue. Clearly a good law ‘On Telecommunications’ is needed to bring accelerated ‘Internetisation’. However, a single law is unlikely to solve all problems. Technical difficulties are also evident, as the Communications and Informatisation Ministry admits. Belarus currently lags behind in its width of exterior Internet gateway per capita and great funds are needed to expand the system. Investments will arrive as soon as demand for Internet services rises. Access to the Internet should allow people to make online doctors appointments, receive consultations from state authorities and conveniently download official documents.
The more issues that can be solved using the Internet, the higher demand will be for broadband Internet access. In turn, this will stimulate the expansion of the external gateway, while increasing speed and improving the quality of services. There will be a positive chain reaction, which can be inspired by state institutions while shifting from archaic paperwork to electronic services.