A Minister of Communications-appointed advisory panel is calling on the two regional fixed line units of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp (NTT) to cut their local phone call charges in a bid to establish equality in payments among subscribers, writes the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. The Telecommunications Council will also request NTT East and NTT West to reduce their basic telecom rates, which are currently higher for urban users than for people living in the provinces, in response to numerous complaints over high charging from people living in the affected areas.
Under Japanese telecoms law, NTT is required to provide universal access which burdens it with the cost of providing services and maintaining the networks in unprofitable, low-population density areas. Although the industry set up a sector-wide cost-sharing ‘universal service’ grants system (that incidentally reaped JPY15.3 billion in its first-year of contributions in 2005), critics of the system fear that NTT East, NTT West and rival carrier KDDI are looking to bring in a levy of JPY7 per month for a phone line from January 2007, effectively passing on the cost of their contributions to the subscriber. Consumer groups are obviously against such a move and have now received crucial support from the Telecommunications Council.