in telephone charges
Main hindrance in IT
By FARAZ SIDDIQUI
Jul 31 - Aug 06, 2000
While the local telephone charges are being made free the world over,
Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation Limited (PTCL) has increased the line rent by 38
per cent and call charges by 10 per cent despite resistance from its customers.
Last week PTCL has announced an increase in monthly line rent and local
call charges which will be effective by August 1. Notification further announced reduction
in the international call charges and NationWide Dialing (NWD) charges. But no reduction
has been made to call duration which will remain 5 minutes. This increase by PTCL has been
in accordance with the recent approval by PTA(Pakistan Telecommunication Authority). While
request to reduce the call duration by PTCL was dismissed. By the increase local call
charges will go up from Rs 2.10 to Rs 2.31 per 5 minutes, whereas line rent has been
increased from Rs 204 to Rs 282, an increase of about 38 per cent per month.
PTA has also accepted to recalculate international call charges
including the central excise duty(CED) to an average of Rs 60.34 per minute, a reduction
of Rs 6.70 per minute, NWD (Nationwide Dialing) charges has also reduced to Rs 18 per
Although PTCL have also strong reasons like inflation, exchange rates
and funds needed for future investment. But it is also evident that PTCL has been earning
millions of profit despite of under utilized capacity. The efficiency and performance of
PTCL is also not up to the standard. Besides this, reduction in lending rate has also
reduced the financial charges of the company. So objection does not only concern with
price increase but PTCL and PTA do not have sound reason for public to believe.
At one hand tariffs are rising but quality of services by PTCL still
touches the ground. Karachi's telephone directory is four years old and data it contains
is six years old. While during the time many of the numbers have been changed from zero
digit to seven digit. Enquiry 17 always full with oft-repeated statement to be engaged. On
the other hand complaints regarding excessive bills are routine matter. In case of
breakdown or any complaint subscriber can not make it registered at 18. Now only left
resort, is approaching through unfair means by involving line man by offering huge amount
or to make bad deal with PTCL officials to get quick remedy as corruption is at its peak.
PTA and other so called regulatory authorities are supposed to
safe-guard the interests of their stakeholders i.e. shareholders, consumers and creditors.
But in this case PTA seems safeguarding the interest of one shareholderthe GoP. PTA
should not be only responsible for PTCL interests but the true mediator between the
parties to split the difference. If PTA can not protect the interests of subscribers than
what could be the justification for their presence.
Regulatory authorities are responsible to invite public hearings on the
issues to protect the interests of all the stakeholders party but in this case it was said
that PTCL put up its proposal on July 15 and hearing was made on the same day. So one can
understand that a day is not enough to have hearing from all the interested parties and
organizations. So it is clear that in this case PTA did not play its part to make fair
representation of the consumers.
Government ambitiously promised for IT revolution in the country but
Universal Access Number allotted to internet providers have been subject to multimetering
has pushed up the telephone bills of home using computer. In this situation when internet
is also subject of high price due to multimetering on the internet dial-up calls and high
call charges what type of revolution can be expected in the country.
Past experiences reveal that despite paying high tariffs public was
deprived of quality services. Now it is highly recommended that regulatory authorities
must remember their role regarding subscribers' interests. If increase was inevitable than
regulatory authorities should also make it possible that it must be coupled with
additional services and facilities like free calls per month and CLI on simple
application. So PTCL should also provide good services and relief to the consumers.
Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz during his post budget discussions
strongly denied the possibility of mini budgets but the prevailing situation seems
contrary to the claims. After an increase of 15 per cent in gas charges, 12.5 per cent in
transport fares, KESC also hinted at the increase in charges and now approval of 10 per
cent increase in local call charges and line rent would definitely make an addition to the
problems of common man.
People from all walks of life have strongly disappointed from the
decision and demanded immediate withdrawal. Throughout the country Citizens Associations,
traders, households, salaried class have shown aggressive reactions on this decision and
perceive it as an step further for burdening the public. Telephone charges throughout the
world are reducing gradually but in Pakistan since 1997 when line rent was Rs 50 gradually
risen upto Rs 282. Sky high prices making it impossible even to afford necessity like
Utilities should not be profit oriented but must be self sustained. But
in Pakistan utilities are also subject of making money and price hike. Subscribers are
paying for delayed new connections, poor quality and high tariff. So far Government has
been blowing its own trumpet and the problems are still there. Now government should do
something in real for the relaxation and benefit of countrymen.