Internet access in Poland among worst in OECD

Even though 2007 brought a major breakthrough in the Polish broadband Internet market, it’s still among the worst developed in Europe. However, the end of the government communications monopoly of TP S.A. gives hope to Internet users in Poland for lower prices and better quality.

Last year Polish Internet users for the first time were given a choice of broadband suppliers as the government ordered TP S.A. to rent its infrastructure to other companies willing to enter the market. The action was essential for competition, because France Telecom owns most of the Polish cable and optical-fiber networks.

The changes came as a result of work done by the Office of Electronic Communications led by Anna Strezynska. Given the power to regulate the market, she has used her authority to set rules and guidelines for the companies and to achieve her main goal: lower prices for telephone and Internet connections in Poland.

At the beginning of 2007, two TP S.A. competitors from the telephone market – Netia and GTS Energis- also became Internet providers. As clients of the former monopoly TP S.A. were permitted to cancel their contracts without financial penalties, tens of thousands switched to the new suppliers.

Swedish Netia was more successful and now provides broadband connections to 210,000 customers. Cable TV operators Multimedia Polska and UPC have 190,000 and 265,000 clients respectively. The three biggest mobile phone operators combined supply Internet for 550,000 laptop or palmtop users.

But they still cannot match TP S.A., which has nearly 2 mln customers. Competition on the broadband market has benefited customers, but Poland is still far behind countries with the best Internet access.

According to the 2007 Communication Outlook of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Poland is ranked 26th of 30 countries because of its low broadband infrastructure and high prices.

While average broadband transfer speed in the OECD countries was 13.7 megabits per second, in Poland it was as low as 4.2. The Communication Outlook survey did not include all positive effects of the changes on the Polish market in 2007, as it was published in November.

The number of computers per Polish household remains low, which hampers network infrastructure development. According to the Polish Central Statistical Office, 54 percent of households have a computer, while only 30 percent have broadband access to the Internet.

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