Telecommunications land Greece in European Court of Justice

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Expensive internet may cost Greece dear

If you think Greek Internet connections seem expensive and not particularly advanced, then you’re not alone. Recently, after repeated warnings to the Greek authorities, the European Union decided to refer Greece to the European Court of Justice on this issue. Greece is accused of not complying with EU directives on telecommunications which would lead to price reductions on broadband (ADSL) connections. In Greece, fast connection prices remain high and user percentages very low.

The European Commission notes that, “throughout the EU, dial-up access is gradually being phased out and replaced by constant broadband access, which offers users faster access and a wide spectrum of services. However, the data provided to the Commission by Greek authorities show that, despite some increase in recent months, the percentage of broadband services penetration in July 2005 was one of the lowest among member states – 1.1% of the population, compared to 0.24 in July 2004. The EU average in July 2005 was just under 11%.

As regards the cost of broadband connections, it is hard to compare retail prices between member states, due to differences in service packages on offer by service providers, in terms of capacity, use time and services. However, from the information at the Commission’s disposal, it seems that Greece is one of the most expensive member states. There is insufficient competition in the area and Greece’s failure to incorporate the EU regulatory framework for electronic communications, which would allow the appropriate regulatory measures and facilitate competition, might be a contributing factor to this problem. For this failure to incorporate regulations in national law, the Commission has referred Greece to the Court.

Although it is difficult to estimate the total number of Internet users in Greece, due to the prevalence of dial-up access, a 2004 Eurostat survey showed that 16% of households had Internet access. This means that Greece has the fourth lowest penetration percentage in the 25-member EU.”

Further statements on the spread of the Internet in Greece were made by the Minister Mr Liapis, during the discussion of telecommunications legislation. The Minister called Greece a “sad leader of the rearguard” in broadband connection penetration. While there has been a significant rise in ADSL connections, from 47,000 in 2004 to 160,000 in 2005, the percentage remains extremely low.

Mr Liapis made special mention of the DIODOS programme, which offers students a 50% discount. He also announced the call to tender in the next few months of a major 196 million-euro project, aiming to increase geographical coverage of broadband infrastructure from 13% today to 60% by 2008. It also aims to increase the rate of broadband services penetration among home users from 1% to 7.5% in two years’ time.

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