Graft puts brakes on fast Internet

It is usually said that a half truth is no better than a lie. OTE’s charges for fast Internet connection are no exception. Upon the first reading, the announcement by the former state telecommunications monopoly that it is going to reduce fixed charges for access to broad-band connections by 20 to 49 percent is wonderful news to Internet users as it heralds cheaper and faster access to the World Wide Web. However, OTE failed to announce that, despite the price reductions, Internet access in Greece continues to be more expensive than in any other country in the European Union. Worse, Greek users pay more for slower services than less developed states such as Egypt. OTE officials have tried to justify the high cost of fast Internet services by laying the blame on the purported technophobia of the Greeks. Broadband connection is expensive, they say, because there are not enough customers. In truth, the opposite is true. It is the unreasonably high cost and low speed of available services that fail to attract new users. These legitimate questions still await answers from OTE officials who, it should be said, have a considerable stake in the country’s future. The delay is damaging the country’s development and international image. But what are the causes? Is it perhaps that OTE’s contractors are deliberately holding up the launch of new-generation connections in order to get rid of their technologically inferior stock? People in the know say that this is indeed so. Therefore, maybe this is not about a bunch of incompetent officials putting the brakes on progress but yet another example of political and business entanglement taking its toll on the entire society. Our aim here is not to point the finger at the failures and the omissions of previous administrations. There is much more at stake. This is about hammering out a new policy in order to regain lost ground in a strategic domain. In an age when nearly everyone has a high degree of computer literacy, it would be tragicomic if Greeks’ access to the information highways remained at a preschool level.