Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications
The Issues

  • Letter from America
  • Letter to Pakistan
  • O Canada!
  • Letter to Pakistan

    Almost the first letter CUT got at the start of June 1998 was a complete surprise. It came from Wahaj us Siraj, Deputy Director of COMSATS (Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South):

    Pakistan Telecom has taken a decision to meter local calls every 5 minutes in Pakistan. We (group of ISPs) is fighting up a case to exempt ISPs from this. To make a strong case we need some European and North American examples where local calls are metered but calls to ISPs are not. I'd highly appreciate a quick response from your side citing such examples. This would be in the interest of the Internet community in Pakistan.

    We wrote back:

    Unfortunately, in the United Kingdom the situation is generally the other way round from what you suggest - those companies which offer unmetered calls of any sort tend to have unmetered local voice calls but metered local data calls (the most obvious example being Telewest).

    I have never seen a convincing explanation for this from any of the companies involved; they best they can come up with is 'encouraging Internet use would clog our networks' which is false.

    Despite the fragmented nature of information about call charges we know, however, that at least four countries offer unmetered local calls - the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Note that the USA and Canada are the two most economically successful members of the G7, and the US Department of Commerce explicitly states that, without cheap Internet access for all, its economy would both be less successful and less capable of growth. See which is a seminal report.

    The main question is ... does Pakistan want to encourage or hinder Internet access?

    I am immensely encouraged by the fact that your ISPs want unmetered calls; this is the opposite of the situation in the United Kingdom, where most ISPs have complained in the past that they would 'not be able to support' unmetered calls. This is because the current metered calls are convenient for them. In the United Kingdom there is relatively low Internet penetration into the home compared to, say, the USA or Canada. This is because most people only have metered calls, so only the relatively well-off can afford access. Because of this low penetration ISPs don't have to try hard. And our Government appears not to be really interested in encouraging Internet access from the home, despite a lot of words rather than actions.

    Unmetered calls would also have a strong patriotic element - your Government could say that, by this, it is trying to encourage Internet use, unlike European governments, and position Pakistan favourably for the next century.

    Wahaj told us on 27 October 1998 that the decision had been reversed:

    We're fortunate enough to win this case. Local call metering had been implemented in Pakistan by Pakistan Telecom with effect from 1 July 1998, but they've exempted Internet calls from this. A new hunt group series has been allocated to all ISPs in Pakistan and incoming calls on these numbers are not metered. So this was a great success to Internet community in Pakistan and Government took a conscious decision.

    Your comments helped us a lot in making a strong case for this, and we're grateful to you for this assistance.

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