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SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 25, 2000 - PINA Nius Online)---Fiji's new interim government is moving to quickly open up Internet access in Fiji. It is ending the Internet Service Provider (ISP) monopoly currently held by Telecom Fiji Limited's Internet Services.

The government is inviting proposals from organizations that are interested in providing access as ISP's, the Ministry of Information and Communication said.

It said: "This is being done to encourage interested parties to fully exploit the anticipated opportunities that will be available in the info-communications industry following the commissioning of the Southern Cross (optic fiber) Cable Network (SCNN) in November of this year.

"The proposals need to be related to the provision of Internet access only and not to the provision of networks. The ISP licenses to be issued by the government will prohibit the provision of voice-over-the-Internet (VoIP). Initially all ISP accesses are to be switched through the network of TFL.

"In the interest of consumers, government will continue to monitor the situation relating to the provision of Internet access through ISPs and proposed changes to the structure of this market when and where necessary.

"Government’s awareness of the situation relating to the provision of access to the Internet has prompted the need to pursue a positive approach in addressing it.

"Government has noted that certain aspects related to the provision of Internet access require sorting out. These include:

1. Bottleneck - Currently the routine of all Internet traffic is through one ISP. This is a situation that can only create a bottleneck to the outward and inward flows of this traffic.

2. Unsecured Route - It is noted and experienced that the service that is provided under the existing Internet access arrangement is non-redundant and susceptible to access failures. Recent outages in Internet access have become a cause of concern to users of this service.

3. Access Problems - Consistent periodic retardation in the speed of access and difficulties in establishing accesses are experienced particularly during times of peak traffic. As a result of this users have become dissatisfied.

4. Speed and Bandwidth - From the standpoint of the user there is still a lot of room for improvement in the standard of Internet access service that is being provided, especially in areas of access speed and access bandwidth.

5. Price - Among the probable causes of the slow uptake in the number of Internet users since its inception in Fiji in 1996 is the high price at which this service is sold.

"The core function of an ISP is enabling access to the Internet."

The Ministry of Information and Communication said that under the existing licensing and regulatory framework, an ISP cannot become a carrier. Such an entity is required to have the basic component such as the network and infrastructure to "carry" the traffic or to be engaged in the transmission of voice or data, it said.

This area is still exclusive to the current carriers Telecom Fiji Limited (on the national scale) and FINTEL (as the international gateway), it said.

The ministry said the provision of Internet access through an ISP is a form of service that adds value to standard facilities. Other forms of value added services emanating as a result of enabling of access to the Internet are telemarketing, tele-health and distance learning.

As a value added service, ISP falls in the deregulated portion of the industry, the ministry said.

"Government sees the need for the provision of Internet access service in Fiji where the access fee is cheap, the service delivery is efficient, higher access speed is facilitated whether in local access or access to the Internet, wider access bandwidth is provided and the access route is secure.

"This can only be done when there are more than one ISP in the sector competing to provide the best Internet access service package," the ministry said.

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