Government Warns ArmenTel About Rates

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Armenian Transportation and Communication Minister Andranik Manukian reiterated the government’s warnings that it would use all the necessary measures to stop ArmenTel from applying per minute charges for telephone use.

"If our continuing negotiations with ArmenTel are successful–the introduction of per minute charges may be prolonged not for one month but for a longer period of time–"Manukian said–adding that otherwise the government may buy back ArmenTel’s shares. "The government would resort to every possible means to cancel the decision," he repeated.

The minister also confirmed reports about reducing prices for mobile and Internet services–but said he did not know how much the prices would go down.

However–the minister’s warnings seem to be late since ArmenTel–on Thursday–posted the terms of passing to per minute charges in all of Armenia’s newspapers. It also said that prices for mobile and Internet services will be reduced by 40 percent.

The introduction of the per-minute billing system for telephone services of ArmenTel breaks the terms of the license issued to the company. Ministry of Transport and Communication officials told reporters that under the license–if ArmenTel intends to change their prices–it must get the approval of the Armenian government beforehand. They must also provide legitimate economic reasons for change in prices–which they have failed to do.

It is still unclear what steps the government will take in response to the violation of the terms of the license. When talking to reporters–Minister of Transport and Communication Andranik Manoukian did not exclude the possibility of forcing ArmenTel to give a larger part of its shares to the state.

It should be noted that the government now holds 10% of ArmenTel’s shares.

The Youth Committee is planning a protest scheduled for September 5-6 to voice their discontent with ArmenTel’s activities. The protest was announced on August 29 by representatives of a number of youth organization represented in the Youth Committee.

The student activists will protest the planned introduction of a per-minute charges for local telephone calls–and will demand the abolition of ArmenTel’s monopoly in the cellular telephone and Internet services industries.

Chairman of the "Young Republic" public-political organization Vahan Babayan said the charges for Internet services in Armenia is much higher than that of foreign countries. "They are depriving the youth in Armenia from communicating with the rest of the world–keeping us in the dark," said Babayan.

Chairman of the youth division of the "Kayunutiun" ("Stability") party Menua Haroutiunian said that a number of political activists had promised their support in this matter. Haroutiunian urged all Armenian students to join in the protest in front of the government building.

Vahan Babayan claimed that the country’s population lives in an atmosphere of fear. "The future of our country is in danger and the youth cannot remain silent," Menua Haroutiunian added. "If the government cannot oppose the introduction of the per minute billing scheme–let them resign–we’ll sit in and oppose it," stated the youth activists.

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