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HN: State to subsidise Internet for low-income families

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Prague, July 1 (CTK) – The Czech state will financially help thousands of low-income families to gain access to the Internet, which was one of the promises the senior government Social Democrats (CSSD) made in their campaign before the 2013 election, Hospodarske noviny (HN) writes Wednesday.

According to Labour and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksova’s (CSSD) plans, the state would spend over 400 million crowns on this during the next five years, HN writes.

The centre-left coalition government’s term expires at the end of 2017.

The CSSD hopes that the Internet connection will help the low-income people find jobs, start up business and gain access to services, HN writes.

“The goal is for people threatened with social exclusion to make use of digital technologies to improve their position in society,” HN quotes Jiri Vanasek, the ministry’s labour market director, as saying.

According to the Czech Statistical Office (CSU), 73 percent of families have access to the Internet, but it is less than one third of the poorest, HN writes.

Operators should start charging lower prices for the Internet access as from the end of 2017 and the state would compensate them for the difference, HN writes.

It writes that the government is to debate the novelty Wednesday. Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) has said, however, he will support it only if it costs the state nothing.

Marksova promises that the measure will be paid within the ministry’s common expenditure, HN writes.

A similar subsidy is in force already now. People with a health handicap get 200 crowns a month for their phone calls. The subsidy is drawn by about 50,000 people, Martin Drtina, spokesman for the Czech Telecommunication Office (CTU) that pays the money to the operators, told HN.

According to the latest statistics from 2013, this cost 91 million crowns, HN writes.

It writes that the Labour Ministry would also like to secure computers for symbolic prices or entirely for free for the low-income people.

The ministry also wants to make high-speed Internet available on a larger territory than Wednesday where there are big differences between a village in the mountains and Prague, HN writes.

It writes that in the borderland, a mere 4 percent of people have access to the high-speed Internet.

HN writes that the Trade and Industry Ministry has started a pilot project within which it will distribute 14 billion crowns to firms that will build transmitters in the most difficult areas.

But it must be careful not to destroy the market with the subsidies and not to push small provides offering a slower connection from the market, HN writes.

“Public assistance is very desirable. But we must fulfil the EU conditions saying that the existing investments should not be marred,” Industry and Trade Minister Jan Mladek (CSSD) is quoted as saying.

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