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Posted 1 Jun 2002 10:13:48 UTC

As the Hungarian telephone company Matáv prepares to raise Internet access rates, a group of concerned Internet users is protesting. This group considers Matáv's actions to be monopolistic and detrimental to the growth of the Internet in Hungary — where Internet access is already more expensive than almost anywhere else in the world.

Matáv previously charged no more than HUF 150 (about US$0.58) per local telephone call between the hours of 6pm and 6am, and offered a "Mindenkinek" package allowing unlimited calls at night for HUF 4000 (US$15.45) per month. However, effective July 1, these plans will no longer be offered, and all off-peak calls will cost HUF 4.50 (US$0.02) per minute.

Approximately 1200 concerned citizens held a demonstration last Tuesday to protest the changes. A related rally was able to block similar changes last year; however, organizers fear that they will not be as successful in Hungary's newly deregulated telecommunications market. Matáv claims that it is no longer able to afford to offer the discount rate plans, but organizers dispute this and point out that Matáv (which is owned by Deutsche Telekom) is currently making a profit of some HUF 20 billion (US$77 million) per quarter.

What is happening in Hungary seems to be similar to what happened last year with California's energy prices: large corporations are taking advantage of newly deregulated markets to increase their profits at consumers' expense. The power and utility of the Internet are growing — despite the low rate of Internet usage in Hungary, there has already been at least one successful boycott coordinated over the Internet. It is truly unfortunate, then, that Matáv will be making the Internet even less accessible to its customers.

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