September 16, 2009 |
When I watch various discussions online regarding network neutrality and how bad it feels to have any limits introduced to unlimited plans at all, I sometimes can’t help but sigh enviously because frequently this seems to be the only thing I myself could even dream about – given the ridiculous prices we pay here in Russia for the internet access that cannot even be described as decent.
Being a patriot, normally I try to support my country in everything and one of the most important goals for me is to explain to the international web community that Russia is a very interesting online market with a huge potential and tons of interesting trends and creative ideas. But there’s one aspect that is really a shame regarding the internet in Russia – price of access.
Only a couple of years ago any unlimited plan (with a pretty slow speed) was the wildest dream for me and for many people in my city – which is actually the 3rd largest city in Russia after Moscow and Saint Petersburg. At the time the vast majority of us still paid per MB downloaded and had no other options at all. The situation was better in Moscow and Saint Petersburg as people have been enjoying unlimited plans for a few years now and it has slowly begun to improve here as well.
Of course it is not as good as we would want it to be but it is still better: now we pay only about $30 per month for an unlimited plan which is probably the best we can get here with … mbps speed. In Moscow you can get a pretty good plan for $10-$15 per month which is obviously affordable for the vast majority of population.
In fact, I’ve recently had an interesting discussion with a Russian friend who has been living in the US for some 10 years now and he mentioned that it is hard to expect Russia to be on a par in its technological development with the US while internet access is something of a luxury to the vast majority of the population. And while of course the prices in Moscow can hardly be characterized as luxurious, here I know that for many people even $30 per month is more than they want to pay if they don’t use the web for work from home.
In that discussion I supported the point of view that at least pretty much everyone who needs to go online for work can now afford it in Russia but today I think I’ll have to change my mind somewhat as I’ve learned about how people in one of the Russian regions protest against inhuman internet rates and sign a petition that is intended to reach the president Medvedev.
Some of you may know the island of Sakhalin as one of the largest oil production projects of the recent years and of course you’d expect basic things like broadband access to be easily available there given that many international companies work on the project and their employees spend lengthy time on the island working.
Yet it is now obvious that while corporations can probably afford to pay whatever the service costs on the island, internet access is really something of a luxury to people living here. Basically a household on the island is supposed to pay as much as $180 for one month of internet access at 1024 kbps (with mo more than 20 GB of monthly downloads) – which can hardly be characterized as affordable at all. A similar plan but with no monthly allowance limitations will costs as much as $360 which is totally beyond my understanding. (And in fact, there are regions in Russia where prices are even higher – like in the polar region – but people there have not initiated any rallies yet so the problem is not very well known.)
The high prices are due to the costs involved in access to the trunk line – such costs can be 4 times higher than they are on the mainland. And unfortunately even those signatures that the supporters of the idea that internet access should be priced reasonably on the island will manage to gather during their rallies this week on the petition that will be sent to Kremlin will hardly change the situation. After all, should ISPs really work losing their money to make internet access truly affordable on the island?
But of course given the attention that the Russian president pays to the World Wide Web, the authorities could probably consider internet something of a true necessity for everyone – and subsidize part of the costs involved in the regions where the prices are too high due to the factors that are beyond the influence of the local ISPs. This seems to be the only thing that could be done to improve the situation but of course I don’t know if it will actually happen or not – but if it will, Russia will probably become the most favorable country to internet penetration and an even more attractive online market.
Via (in Russian)