Indian Internet fees slashed after end of monopoly

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New Delhi-- Only two months after renouncing its monopoly over Internet access, the Indian government will drastically slash user fees and offer more flexible hours to entice subscribers to its state-run Internet service provider.

The New Delhi-based Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's Videsh Sanchar's Gateway Internet Access Services will replace its flat fee of $415 for 500 hours of Net usage a year with three options: $75 for 100 hours, $162 for 250 hours and $250 for 500 hours. For every extra 20 hours used, subscribers will be charged 75 cents an hour. The reduced rates are effective Jan. 1.

The federal government this year initiated steps to reinvigorate interest in the Internet, access to which was opened to Indians in August 1995. Gateway Internet Access currently accounts for an estimated 50,000 users, a poor showing due to the high user fees and the public impression that its service was patchy. Even neighboring China, boasts a larger base of 300,000 Internet users.

A further display of the government's zeal to increase Internet access was the Oct. 16 decision to end Gateway's monopoly and open the field to privately run Internet service providers. Since then, CompuServe Corp., IBM Corp., Sprint Corp. and others have applied for an ISP license.

Copyright December 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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