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|February 23, 1998||
Slash in Internet access tariff triggers 25
The number of Internet subscribers in India has shot up 25 per cent after the introduction of new tariffs on January 1.
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On January 1, VSNL reduced the charges for a TCP/IP account from Rs 15,000 to Rs 10,000 for 500 hours of usage. The reduction followed instructions to the effect from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
Subscribers to the VSNL Internet service are estimated to have since increased from about 50,000 to nearly 64,000, accounting for most of the fresh additions this year.
There are long queues at VSNL offices in the six cities from which it operates its Internet servers - Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore, Calcutta, Madras and Ahmedabad.
"On some days we have been sanctioning more than 600 new subscriptions," a VSNL officer said in Delhi.
Meanwhile, the number of subscribers to the Internet services provided by the Department of Telecommunications has remained virtually unchanged at a little more than 10,000. DoT runs Internet servers in seven cities at present, and aims to eventually raise the number to 20 cities. The bulk of its subscribers are based in Pune, Hyderabad and Chandigarh.
Under the new TRAI notified rates, Internet service providers are allowed to charge on three slabs. Tariffs for TCP/IP accounts are Rs 3,000 for 100 hours; Rs 6,500 for 250 hours; and Rs 10,000 for 500 hours. TCP/IP-based Internet services enable Internet users to view graphics as well as text.
In addition to these usage slabs, incremental subscription in steps of 20 hours each are available at Rs 30 an hour. These tariffs replace the earlier Internet access charges of Rs 15,000 for a single slab of 500 hours.
Most of the fresh connections are in the 100-hour slab, sources added.
"Not only that, the introduction of the new tariff slabs have ensured that shell accounts don't have any new takers," the VSNL official said.
VSNL has been discouraging the use of shell accounts, which allow only text-based access of the Internet, because the tariffs on such accounts do not cover the costs. Shell accounts are priced at Rs 500 a year for educational institutions and have found many takers among students.
The government expects the number of Internet users in the country to increase to 1.5-2 million users by 2000, following its decision to allow private ISPs to offer Internet access.
Private ISPs have, however, not been issued the licence agreements yet, although the government has announced the guidelines.
- Compiled from the Indian media