Key Issues
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"Key Internet Policy Issues" is a series of contributions from people living in countries new or relatively new to the Internet about what they consider to be key policy issues related to the deployment and use of the Internet in their country. Each text is published under the complete responsibility and with the permission of its author. These contributions were solicited by Alan McCluskey, guest editor, in preparation for a special issue of the Internet Society's magazine "OnTheInternet" entitled "Strategies for development: from thought to action" to be published in November 1997. For more information and comments on the preparation of this special edition see "Addressing Key Policy Issues".

Overcoming monoplostic forces

Albania's past has left it with a very bad telecommunications service, covering about 3-6% in the main cities, using old cables and old analogue switches. Only recently have digital switches been installed in big cities, and the PTT is laying new cables. Because of the profound changes in Albania after 1990, a small metropolitan data network in the capital Tirana was abandoned. The technology was too old and there were financial difficulties.

After 1991, it became possible to create Internet nodes. However, new legislation has perpetuated the monopoly in public services, and only the incumbent telco was said to have the right to provide Internet access. As for commercial data services, the law states that a limited number of licences for such activities can be issued by the government supposedly on an open competition basis. However, nothing was done, which permitted the mobile telephony company to formally monopolise Internet services without actually offering such services as yet. These constraints caused the failure of the PHARE project for the academic network. Currently, all Internet activity goes through the international links of SOROS and UNDP.

A massive introduction of Internet in Albania would permit a better connection with the world, facilitating integration and economic development. Why "massive"? Currently, the Internet is used by a small number of academic institutions. E-mail is used by a part of academic community, a small number of government departments and NGOs. Hardly any companies are using it, although there is a strong demand. Our objectives are to assure Internet connection to all academic community and to enterprises as well.

This situation effectively cuts Albania off from the rest of the world. It is impossible for the academic community, for example, to collaborate with foreign partners without at least e-mail. Many enterprises as well as foreign investors consider the absence of Internet to be an obstacle to business in Albania, especially with the development of marketing over the Internet.

One of the things we are trying to do is to improve Internet nodes and develop non-commercial services to the scientific community and NGOs. All organisations involved: SOROS, INIMA, the Polytechnic University and the UNDP Office are collaborating to extend the current service. We are also considering commercial services, but the main problem is the legislation.

In an attempt to push the new government to improve legislation by removing the monopolistic obstacles, INIMA recently send a document to top level authorities, requesting the complete liberalisation of all data transmission services as well as related satellite and wireless communications. We are waiting for a reaction from government. Unfortunately they have many things to do after months of chaos in Albania, but they seems to be positive about it. There has been no visible reaction from "monopolistic forces" - perhaps they feel guilty for what they have done (?).

Neki Frasheri, INIMA, Albania.

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ISSN: 1664-834X Copyright © , Alan McCluskey,
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Created: September 5th, 1997 - Last up-dated: September 5th, 1997