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Free internet can bankrupt Russian ISP

Once upon a time the Russian president has proposed to provide Russian citizens with free internet. Little then the proposal has been detailed – the free internet only for socially significant web-sites or web-resources. Clarifying of proposal required the list of so called socially significant web-resources. The relevant Russian state authorities have drafted the list and terrified the internet service providers (ISPs).

The list included not only web-sites of Russian state agencies, but also included mass media web-sites and social networks. Almost everybody knows that social web-sites include video and music content, which could be very heavy in terms of traffic. In other words, if internet users in Russia could receive content for free (free of charge internet and music with video), why they should pay to their ISPs?

Good question. Therefore the ISPs have asked to exclude some “positions” for free internet list. After that, again, the relevant Russian authorities have proposed to make “light” version of web-sites and web-resources from list in order to reduce the traffic. It did not help. ISPs have claimed it could destroy their business. They could get bankrupts.

Not good consequence for economy and the field of authorities’ interests. The major ISP could survive, but the regional – nope. The representatives from regional ISPs have stated that implementation of proposal to provide free internet access to socially significant web-sites entails serious risks, including worsening bandwidth and bankrupts.

If the ISP provides free access and most of its subscribers need internet to chat communicate in social networks, the certain percentage of users can refuse from paid services. If even 20% of subscribers would do so, the small ISP can bankrupt or raise the prices for its services much higher. Not good consequence in both cases. There was already experiment with free internet access to web-sites in some regions.

The proposal on free internet access also contradicts with current Russian federal law. The law on communication provides that if the subscriber does not pay for services more than half of year, the operator has the right to terminate the agreement with subscriber.

It could mean, that according to one law (free internet) the ISP has obligation to provide its customers with free access to web-resources from list, approved by the Russian government, and from the other side, according to other law (on communication) the same ISP has the right to terminate agreement with those subscribers because they don’t pay for communication services.

Would it mean that internet users will migrate from one ISP to other ISP each six months? Otherwise the proposal of free internet does not have any sense because nobody could receive it without full payment of free internet services. According to logic of proposal the free internet access is included in paid internet access, but how it could be possible to divide the paid traffic from free traffic?

The proposal also does not take into account distinction by types of internet providers. The providers of mobile and so called home internet in mostly cases have their own facilities and equipment. But there are also satellite internet providers. They take necessary equipment and facilities in rent.

So, if such internet providers would guarantee the free internet access to socially significant web-sites or resources they have to raise the prices for their services much higher or simple to dissolve the business. In both scenarios the citizens have no internet access to any resources. In other words the legal proposal of free internet relates to all internet providers.

Therefore, after all complaints from all sides of internet providers community the Russian ministry of communication has proposed to exclude certain companies (internet providers) from those, who is obliged to provide free internet access to socially significant web-sites or web-resources.

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