Thursday, June 15, 2006

Internet capacities just emerging in Central Asia

Internet use in Central Asia is still fairly low. Part of the reason for this has been the high price of internet access and even the relatively high price of computer hardware. That being said, there is a growing boom in internet capabilities in Central Asia that is likely to affect small business development and even general information access. The annual address of President Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan included promises to slash the price of internet provision, and moves are already being taken towards that end. The major internet service provider in Kazakhstan, Kazakhtelekom (now run by the state management company Samruk), has been unvieling a relatively affordable high speed DSL connection called Mega Line . While Megaline is still not affordable to everybody, it is within the means of the country's growing middle class. It includes a 128kbs/128kbs unlimited usage package for $50/month. Other services have traffic limits, but can also be used by small family owned businesses for a fairly affordable price. In Kyrgyzstan, where de-regulation of the internet has been even more pronounced, Aziia Info is even introducing a VOIP internet telephone service that will significantly undercut the state telephone company's control over long distance phone service by offering very cheap prices. These developments are likely only the beginning, but they could point to a tipping point in the regulation of telecommunications in Central Asia, much to the relief of citizens and businessmen who want information from the web and affordable phone connections with the rest of the world. Vested interests, of course, are likely to work to restrain this growth of affordable communications for various reasons.

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