Govt. working to trim down internet charges

MoIC Minister Karma Donnen Wangdi and Gasa MP Dorji Khandu

LHAKPA TSHERING

Thimphu

With consumers continuing to make a beeline of complaints on social media platforms that their data gets exhausted so fast without using much of it, the government is now working to reduce internet prices and make services more affordable to the consumers.

The Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) Minister, Karma Donnen Wangdi, in the joint sitting of the ongoing parliament, made it clear that works are underway to reduce the mobile internet users’ cost burden.

To help people afford internet access, Lyonpo said the government is trying its best to cut the cost of internet usage. “Despite the prices for broadband data plans having decreased in the past, we continue working to provide discounted internet access,” he said, adding they expect this to happen soon.

“However, while we must provide services at affordable rates, we also need to consider the business prospects of two internet service providers,” Lyonpo added. “Keeping this in mind, discussions and works are underway to offer the best possible reduced-price.”

The concerns on the exorbitant data charges were raised by Gasa Member of Parliament (MP) Dorji Khandu in the parliament joint sitting while deliberating on the Public Accounts Committee (PCA) review reports.

He said Bhutan has the most expensive internet costs in South Asian countries. “The major complaint made by the public is about internet data balance getting exhausted too quickly and higher call charges against the two telecommunication service providers,” he said.

Commenting on the government’s pledges to provide free Wi-Fi access for citizens, he said the time has come for the government to look into providing subsidies for internet service if the free offer is not possible. “Making access to affordable internet services is absolutely essential,” he added.

Calling on the government to support Bhutan Telecom (BTL) in reducing data charges, he said, they should be more oriented towards social obligations and benefits rather than twisting it into an opportunity for profit as it is a Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) owned company.

He said that if the government supports BTL (state-owned) to tackle the issues, TashiCell (privately owned) will also cut its data prices as a business competitor in the marketplace.

“For instance, at the moment, Nu 99 data gets only 1,330-megabytes (MB). If the government supports BTL to increase the value to 2,000- or 3,000-MB, it is definite that TashiCell will also offer the same services to retain their customers,” he said.

With the changing times, Dorji Khandu said, internet has become even more essential as students have to rely on internet connectivity for studies and working from home including conducting online meetings during the pandemic.