By Atom Markarian
Armenia’s biggest Internet service provider predicted on Monday a drop in the number of its users as a result of the latest increase in fixed-line telephone fees charged by the ArmenTel operator.
Andranik Aleksanian, the executive director of Arminco, said the tariff rise approved by the government in November will make the cost of dial-up Internet connection prohibitive for many of the company’s clients and discourage prospective users from signing up.
The new tariffs are part of a compromise agreement ending ArmenTel’s long-running dispute with the government. The telecom operator owned by Greece’s OTE giant was allowed to raise its fixed-line prices and given other concessions in return for abandoning its monopoly on wireless telephony.
Many Internet and phone subscribers in Armenia until now paid a fixed monthly fee of 5,000 drams ($10) for unlimited use of the service. ArmenTel will now charge them 7,000 drams a month which will cover only 2,250 minutes of local phone calls or time they spend on the Internet. Internet users will pay ArmenTel 1 dram for every extra minute of Internet connection.
Aleksanian said the telecom monopoly should have compensated the price hike by reducing charges levied from Arminco and other Internet service providers. He dismissed the ArmenTel chief executive Vasilios Fetsis’s recent assurances that the company will introduce a new system of payments that will lead to an overall decrease in the cost of the service for the the providers.
The latter have long complained that it is disporportionately high and hampers development of information technology in Armenia.
The Armenian Ministry of Transport and Communications, meanwhile, indicated that ArmenTel may still revise the Internet tariffs. “We have yet to endorse them,” the ministry spokeswoman, Tamar Ghalechian, told RFE/RL. “Discussions with ArmenTel are going on.”