Sri Lanka ICT policy urges broadband charge cut

Sri Lanka’s new information and communication technology plan for 2011-1016 advocates further cuts in high-speed broadband communication costs with the aim of increasing ICT business and creating more jobs.

Present broadband charges which are higher than competitor countries are deterring foreign ICT and business process outsourcing (BPO) firms from setting up in the island and are partly responsible for poor internet penetration, a report said.

“The cost of commercial broadband and internet links such as IPLC ((international private leased circuit) and leased lines is higher in Sri Lanka when compared to the region,” said the ICT draft plan by the ministry of telecommunications and information technology.

“This makes Sri Lanka less attractive for companies setting up, especially in the early days when heavy cash outflows exist.”

The availability of such quality services need to be expanded so that companies can locate regionally where pockets of talent exist, said the paper which was discussed at a meeting of government and industry officials Tuesday.

A fibre optic network that is being laid must have capacity to give 8 Mbps (1 megabytes per second or MBps or about 800 KiloBytes per second) connectivity to 70 percent of all households in covered areas within five years, it said.

The ‘National Backbone Network’ project should accelerate establishment of a government-owned high-speed optical fibre based national backbone network covering all electorates.

“The NBN operator has to offer affordable prices for backbone and connectivity services,” the paper said.

“Broadband and connectivity services of each category will be 30 percent less than the lowest market prices prevailing at the time of issuance of license.”

Physical infrastructure needs must also be addressed with either the government setting up or giving the private sector incentives to set up IT parks on ready-to-occupy basis.

The government should also offer concessions to IT-BPO industry to reduce operating cost for companies which will make Sri Lanka more attractive like in other countries measures, the paper said.

High cost and low quality of service figured among the causes of very low broadband penetration in the island.

There was no connectivity coverage in very rural areas with access being limited to semi-rural and metropolitan areas.

The government should give incentives to telecom operators to provide very low cost, subsidised broadband connectivity like WiFi, WiMAX and ADSL to rural areas, the draft policy said.

Introduce a national broadband policy with quality of service and standards

There was also a lack of awareness of benefits of broadband. The country is lagging behind in producing an adequate number of ICT professionals according to industry demand, the paper said.

One reason was high cost of connectivity which prevents people from using ICT.

In the metropolitan areas of Sri Lanka broadband has become much more affordable even though the prices are quite high compared to other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

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