Greece lags in fast Net

Greece is last among the 30 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in broadband Internet connections, according to an OECD report released yesterday. Greece has now fallen behind Central European countries, as well as Mexico and Turkey, since not even two out of 100 Greeks have a fast Internet connection. At the end of 2005, broadband penetration in Greece was at 1.4 percent, compared to an average of 13.6 percent in all 30 OECD members and 14.2 percent in the «old 15» EU member states (that is, excluding the 10 newcomers, mainly from Eastern Europe, who joined in May 2004). It should be noted, though, that since OTE, Greece’s largest telecoms company, lowered its fixed charges for the provision of ADSL Internet connections in September 2005, connections have significantly increased. Heightened competition among service providers has driven prices lower, although Greece is still too expensive compared to other European countries and offers comparatively low connection speeds. Most providers offer a peak speed connection of 1 megabit per second (Mbps), with the exception of Vivodi, which offers 2 Mbps to households (and 4 Mbps to businesses). Elsewhere in Europe, speeds up to 24 Mbps are offered. «The prices charged for Internet access, given the connection speeds on offer, continue to be high compared to those in other European countries,» concurs the Information Society Observatory in a report. The government hopes that the number of broadband connections will increase significantly through a special program providing cheap Internet to university students. The program got off to a slow start as only one service provider, Hellas On Line, an Intracom group company, posted an offer. Recently, Altec Telecoms, Vivodi and OTEnet joined in. The Technical Chamber of Greece, the engineers’ professional association, has made its own offer to students of technical universities and colleges. Still, some Internet service providers have protested that the government-sponsored program is distorting the market and have taken their case to the European Commission. Development Ministry officials, however, claim that they had cleared the matter with the Commission before announcing the program. The OECD data come on the heels of another report, by the World Economic Forum, which places Greece 50th among 115 countries surveyed in terms of readiness to take advantage of an online economy. The main criterion was, again, Internet usage. According to the study, 24.2 percent of Greek households had access to the Internet, most over slow PSTN lines (up to 56 kbps) compared to 49 percent in the European Union.

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