Reports in the media are pointing towards a possibility that PTCL has plans to start charging for the UIN access (access to special Internet Numbers called University Internet Access Number that start with the characteristic 131 digits) from a single call for the entire call duration to a time-based pulse charging mechanism.
Shahzad Ahmad of Bytesforall.net has summed up the case at PakistanICTPolicy forum:
This is horrendous, outrageous, unethical and unacceptable. This is not ON PTCL! Government of Pakistan, you can NOT approve this evil plan. Would you like to block and limit people’s access to Internet in the country?
How could PTCL take back the affordability of non-metered calls facility for dialup Internet access? Curse of monopoly! In a country of 160+ million people, where number of Internet users is already very low, just around 4 million and now PTCL wants to further reduce this number? This is just lust for more money and profit. This is robbery by PTCL on Internet users.
For many years now, ICTs have been one of the major focus of the Government of Pakistan. May it well be due to market dynamics, modernization drive, peculiar circumstances, the country seen some massive, though unbalanced growth in different areas of ICTs penetration in the country. Pakistan formulated its first ever IT Policy in 2000, followed by an ambitious Action Plan.
Since then, a huge investment has been made in ICT infrastructure in the country. Special facilities like non-metered Internet calls (where only one local call will be charged for any amount of time), even for long distance from small towns were quite unique steps for providing Universal Internet Access. We still remember the days, when Dr. Ata ur Rahman, then Minister of IT would take a lot of pride in his each TV appearance, always mentioning this revolutionary step. Indeed, at that time non-metered calls contributed very positively, providing global Internet connectivity to remote cities and towns in the country. In fact, this resulted Pakistan having the most extensive Internet coverage among the countries of South Asia.
We actually never believed in this TV report breaking the news that PTCL is taking back the facility of affordable non-metered calls and now a call will be charged every 15 minutes of the connectivity time. This means that for each 24 hours of internet usage, the user will pay extra for 96 calls at the rate of approximately Rs. 2.50 per call making the bill to be around Rs. 240/- in addition to ISP charges.
Currently, a user pays about Rs. 300 per month for 24 hours unlimited dialup connection and then telephone bill costs around 35-40 calls a month. This makes the Internet connectivity very possible at reasonable cheap rate in this country, where larger population is low income.
In the changed scenario, where PTCL wants to charge more money for each dialup call, believe me students community will be the most affected. People who need 24 hours connectivity for email/Internet will suffer immensely.
Let’s join hands to raise voice to stop PTCL from its money grabbing tactics. It is so silly that a dialup connection will become much more expensive than a DSL.
Just to let you all know that Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK) has issued a protest call on Monday, the 24th September, 2007. They plan to talk to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority as well. If nothing happens then ISPAK plans to move Supreme Court of Pakistan.
We request all concerned civil society organizations, relevant associations, individuals and media outfits to please help stop this evil plan of PTCL to block and limit people’s access to Internet. Yes, it indeed is blocking people’s access to Internet. Lust for grabbing more money from poor people of Pakistan is actually not going to contribute any good to the overall socio-economic development of the country.
If PTCL goes ahead with its evil plan, we propose “take-back-the-net” campaign and country wide protests. We will involve all relevant associations, IT Industry, media and general public to stop this. If PTCL insists on continuing with this plan then Government of Pakistan should provide alternatives to Internet users in the country. PTCL’s monopoly is unacceptable.