Internet companies have raised concerns about a government plan to route all Internet service through the government-owned Telecom Cambodia, saying this could create a monopoly and could restrict free access to information and freedom of speech.
Currently, 90 percent of Cambodia’s ISPs, or Internet service providers, offer connections through private companies. But in an October proclamation, the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications instructed telecom companies to connect through the government-owned Telecom Cambodia. Internet companies say the ministry’s plan to route Internet service through Telecom Cambodia would give the company effective control of the Internet.
Telecom Cambodia has not said when its plan would go into effect.
“This monopoly will inhibit development of the telecommunications market by imposing additional unnecessary costs on the operators, without increasing security or network performance,” according to a statement from the Information Communication Technology Association of Cambodia.
“The result will increase communication costs for end-users, making Cambodian businesses less competitive in the key markets of the 21st century.”
Heng Chantheng, the interim secretary-general for the association, said the plan would give Telecom Cambodia power to block “any website, that is illegal, or has pornography or for freedom of expression against the government.”
She said the implications carry the potential for restrictions similar to censorship in China.
Mike Gaertner, chief operations officer for CIDC information technology, which does some interconnection of ISPs in Cambodia, said the plan could stifle investment in the Internet sector and the amount of control could discourage foreign investment in information technology.
“I don’t think it’s the best way to go,” he said.
The private sector discussed the issue with the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications at a meeting last month and will again raise it at a meeting this month, he said.
Lao Saroeun, director-general of Telecom Cambodia, agreed to an interview yesterday with a reporter but when the reporter appeared at his office for a scheduled appointment he said he could not answer questions without a written request and approval from Minister So Khun.
Mr Saroeun’s only comment was that internet companies had not raised concerns with him.