Protests over leap in Net fees

Politicians and a leading consumer group called on the government yesterday to intervene and block a decision by phone company OTE to hike Internet charges by as much as 500 percent as of next month. OTE said on Tuesday that its EPAK connection charges, which offer users Internet access via a regular phone line, will increase by 75 percent during the day and 500 percent for those wishing to surf at night. Industry sources said that the move is aimed at pushing more users on to the faster – and more expensive – ADSL connection. The Greek Quality of Life Consumer Union (EKPOIZO) slammed the decision and said that OTE is abusing its power. The cost of fast Internet in Greece is more than double the average cost charged in Europe, EKPOIZO said. Greece has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in the European Union and the price hike is seen as slowing any attempts to get more of Greece connected to information networks. There were calls of protest from opposition parties as well as deputies from within the ruling New Democracy party. ND Deputy Panos Kammenos said the price hike is illegal and only offers a boost to OTE’s profits. The government holds just over a third of OTE, which is listed on the Athens bourse, but controls the company. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos dodged a question yesterday about whether the government intends to do anything about OTE’s decision, which is seen adding some 30 million euros to its revenues in 2006. The price hikes still need to be approved by state telecoms regulator EETT, the National Post and Telecommunications Commission.

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