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Ministry, CSOs object to borey internet access fees by owners

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Telecoms ministry officials inspect a house located in a gated community, known locally as borey, in Phnom Penh to check mobile phone coverage and internet service last July. MPTC

Ministry, CSOs object to borey internet access fees by owners

Civil society organisations are accusing the owners of gated communities – known locally as boreys – on the outskirts of the capital of exploiting their residents by demanding payments from them for internet connections when they are not actually involved in the work but merely allowing it, a practice that has also been condemned by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications.

San Chey, executive director of the NGO Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said on November 15 that the issue of borey and condo development owners taking money from residents for no clear purpose was obviously exploitative and needlessly added to the considerable costs they already incur by paying to own or rent property there.

“I see a lot of things like this happening and the authorities should take action on it, so that the internet service providers can just link the internet directly to each resident’s house. The only infrastructure required that the borey owner provides are the electric poles or conduits the wiring is strung along, but those are necessary for electricity and thus not an added cost.

“Borey residents have the right to access utilities and services there, so charging a fee for it is simply internet colonialism,” he said.

He added that as a solution, the telecoms ministry and the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction should take joint measures to protect people in the boreys from these predations.

Telecoms ministry spokesman So Visothy said officials had reminded the owners of boreys and condominiums that they must stop taking money from residents for simply allowing a direct internet connection to residents living there.

Visothy said this activity was a violation of the law on telecommunications because the landlords are effectively providing telecoms services without a licence from the regulator when they insert themselves as middle-men into the process.

“When they charge money in exchange for allowing internet connections to the borey houses, it stifles competition because they often reward one certain provider with exclusive rights and then the business just ignores customer complaints and problems,” he said.

“Maintenance for interruption of service is also limited, unlike within a competitive market where every business is afraid of losing customers,” he added.

He said that if this practice continues to persist, then the ministry will take legal action against individual borey owners according to the laws and regulations in force.

The telecoms ministry issued a press release on November 14 renewing its calls for borey and condominium owners to stop taking money in exchange for allowing internet connections to residential dwellings.

“Such actions are against the law on telecommunications and amount to providing unlicensed internet services without permission from the Telecommunications Regulator of Cambodia [TRC]. All borey and condominium development owners must cease and desist use of these fees,” the ministry said.

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