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".

Monopoly costs restricting Internet broad acceptance

In Argentina, as in many other countries, there is a monopoly provider (Telintar) for International communication services (voice and data). This exclusive authorisation to Telintar has had a positive effect on the country in that it led to important investments in infrastructure. But without competition, the prices were high. For the Internet to be helpful and useful, it must be widely accepted by the entire community, otherwise, it becomes a toy for the few who can afford it.

But wasn't all so bad....

What helped our country was a decision of the regulatory authority to permit a link to the USA provided by another operator than Telintar so long as it was used for non-commercial purposes. This permission let a co-operative network of Universities and Research Institutions called Retina manage its own network and share the costs of Internet services. The costs involved for each member included those of reaching the network and a portion of the cost of the shared international link.

Why was it authorised?

Since 1992, the academic network made many requests to Telintar to have a link to the USA for Internet access but the requests were never granted. This lack of service drove Retina to complain and the government authorised the use of a private link. In 1993 when the agency resolved to make this exception, Telintar started providing Internet services.

In 1994 and 1995 the monopoly operator tried to be the exclusive provider of Internet services in many ways: trying to make the government cancel the authorisation, or being itself the provider of the Academic Network link. But a final government decision ratifying the authorisation has changed the situation. Now the prices that Telintar charges ISPs have fallen and there is a special price for academic use. All the community know the costs that members of Retina have to pay for Internet services. So Telintar, also interested in getting Universities as clients, has made very interesting agreements considering costs and quality (not overselling the bandwidth). And these known agreements are also used by ISPs to obtain fair fees.

This academic Network is very small compared to the rest of the Internet in our country, but it helped the Internet to start up in Argentina and is now a good reference in terms of price and quality. The government have a vested interest in making the Internet more accessible to the community and if the government's positive attitude towards this network persists, the network can play a major role in the future.

Christian O'Flaherty, Retina, Argentina

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