Arena takes cautious line on charges

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 July, 1996, 12:00am

The Office of the Telecommunications Authority (Ofta) is adopting a slowly, slowly approach to reforming the local call charging structure, according to director-general of Telecommunications, Alex Arena.

The four options offered in Ofta's discussion paper include retaining the status quo, adopting a flat rate tariff for all services or giving customers a choice of tariff structures.

'I am open-minded on the four options including the status quo,' Mr Arena said.

'The flat-rate tariff has served Hong Kong well to-date. I do not wish to see any of the merits of the present system thrown away hastily and carelessly in moving towards any new pricing mechanisms.

'But the public should be aware of the problems facing the existing flat-rate pricing and that it is not cost free.' 'What I hope to see is an informed public discussion on this matter, before Government takes a view as to the best way forward to serve the interest of the public,' Mr Arena said.

Developments in the telecommunications industry including the increased use of local telephone lines for computer-or other machine-based usages has meant an increased focus on the subsidy heavy users are effectively extracting from light residential users.

'If we continue to allow uncontrolled use by machines free of charge on the public telephone network, there is a danger that telephone charges could be pushed up significantly or service quality would deteriorate quickly. Other places such as the United States are facing the same problem,' he said.