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NET CONTROL: Government says it wants the last word

NET CONTROL: Government says it wants the last word

THE issue of control has become critical in the future of Cambodia’s Internet provision, as tensions between the private sector and the government have become increasingly apparent this year. For the ICT sector, the first three months of 2010 have been characterised by a growing sense of concern, frustration and at some points, disbelief, as plans to centralise the Kingdom’s Internet infrastructure gather pace. According to Telecom Cambodia’s Deputy General Chin Daro, the government wants to control the Internet to limit access to controversial content, such as pornography or sites which are “against government principles”. The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC) has drawn up a plan to create central monitored domestic and international Internet exchange points through which all traffic in Cambodia will be routed. State-run company Telecom Cambodia (TC) is set to be given a monopoly to control the hubs. This means it will effectively control the distribution of all international bandwidth to domestic Internet Service Providers (ISPs). ISPs will also have to pay to use the domestic internet exchanges, which are currently provided free by private companies. The reality of the situation is hitting home for Cambodia’s business community. According to numerous ISP representatives and industry insiders, who have spoken to the Post over the past three months, the plan has the potential to crush a burgeoning sector. Cambodia has around 37 ISPs nationally of which 16 are operational, an MPTC study states. Many ISP representatives say that TC is unreliable and will be unable to cope with the scale of web traffic involved as the new gatekeeper. Businessmen have also pointed out that the government’s planned radical restructuring of the domestic Internet architecture puts at risk more than US$500 million of investment for a scheme which they say has never been implemented in the world before. Accusations have been made that MPTC is awarding TC the monopoly in order to bolster its finances before an initial public offering on Cambodia’s forthcoming stock exchange planned for later this year. TC, sources said in March, would be able to control the market price for bandwidth for its own commercial benefit. TC Director General Lao Saroeun countered last month: “We expect very little revenue from the Internet hub, maybe $30,000 to $50,000 per year. This amount cannot be used to bolster TC to gain credit in the stock market. We will only control Internet content.”

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