Euro-IR Project Main Index



The APC European Internet Rights Project

Country Report — Czech Republic

by Marek Tichy, Econnect


Internet Access

Internet usage in the Czech Republic is steadily growing. The internet is coming to be considered as an important source of information; e-mail and other types of Internet communication are becoming more and more popular.


Telecommunications infrastructure

Most of the telecommunications infrastructure, especially local networks, is still owned and controlled by Czech Telecom, a partly privatised company which held a monopoly, supported by the government, until the end of 2000. This has allowed Czech Telecom a big influence on means of internet access.

There have been some positive results from government participation, such as the response to demand for improvements to infrastructure in rural areas. The number of telephone lines has significantly increased since 1980. There are now approximately 37 telephone lines per 100 users and 73 of households have their own telephone line. 77% of these lines are connected to fully digital exchanges.

ISDN was introduced in 1996, but was not much used until prices were lowered at the end of 2000. ISDN usage is now expected to increase, especially in businesses and offices. ADSL has been tested out by Czech Telecom and is expected to be introduced in late summer 2001.

Leased lines, both analogue and digital, are almost exclusively available only from Czech Telecom. The future likelihood of using analogue lines for higher speed transmissions is uncertain. Cable connection via UPC is now available in some parts of Prague, but is expected to cover 100,000 households in Prague and Brno by the end of 2001.Private ISPs are building their own microwave radio networks in large cities.


Users

45% of the population have access to a PC and about 20% use their PC daily. 16% of adults (1,360,000) have used the Internet; 6% of them use the Internet frequently and more than once a week, 10% use it regularly, but less often. Most people still access the Internet from their office (56% of users) or school (16%). Most home users are young people with high disposable income. One third of users are students. The ratio of women to men online is 22:78, but recent studies suggest that this will soon reach more balanced proportions.

31% of Czech Internet users live in Prague, while in towns and villages, where almost half the population live, the percentage of users is less than 15%.


ISPs

There is no licence required to operate as an ISP. There are about one hundred ISPs , but the number is decreasing, due to takeovers by large ISPs and to the fact that providing dialup for small numbers of users is no longer lucrative. Over ten ISPs have their own international connection. There is a local NIX peering centre that connects about 25 main ISPs. Few ISPs offer a local infrastructure for local network communications, VPN etc,. in Prague.


Costs

While the per minute connection fee is still one of the biggest barriers to wider usage, charging by ISPs for dial up access seems to be a thing of the past. Five ISP’s (VOLny, WorldOnLine, Contactel, Kiwwi, Quick) are now offering free Internet access through special regional telephone numbers, with special tariffs for Internet access across the country. Czech Telecom (or another company, Dattel) shares revenue from phone call charges with these ISPs.

There were big protests against the Czech Telecom monopoly in late 1998, following an increase in per minute local rates by Czech Telecom. The “Internet against monopoly” campaign brought together about 100,000 people and 900 IT companies, who boycotted the Internet for one day. In response to this unique public movement, Czech Telecom introduced a special rate for Internet users called Internet 99. It was only a small improvement, however, and although a more recent tariff, Internet 2000, has brought real discounts for evenings and weekends, the crucial problem of per minute charging is still unresolved.

On the whole, although the price of accessing the Internet in the Czech Republic is similar to that of Western Europe, in relation to purchasing power [OECD Report] the price is very high.

Resources in Czech:
  • Network Media Services survey, http://www.vyzkuminternetu.cz/

  • Deloitte & Touche comparative internet study, http://ram.namodro.cz/pruzkum/triparadoxy.asp

  • Server about the Czech Internet, http://www.lupa.cz

Resources in English:
  • [CDT] Bridging the Digital Divide: Internet Access in Central and Eastern Europe - http://www.cdt.org/international/ceeaccess/countrydetail.shtml#czechrepublic

  • [OECD Report] http://www.oecd.org/dsti/sti/it/cm/stats/isp-price99.htm



Degree of Internet censorship

Since the so-called “Velvet Revolution” in 1989, the Czech Republic follows fully democratic principles. With regard to censorship of the Internet, no new laws have been put in place. Czech legislation covers Internet content by applying existing laws and procedures.

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is also applicable in the Czech Republic. Article 17 of the Charter states that everybody has the right to free expression of his or her opinion by word, in writing, in the press, in pictures or in any other form; they also have the right to freely seek, receive and disseminate ideas and information, irrespective of the frontiers of the State. The same Article states that censorship is not permitted. On the other hand, the Charter also states that rights to freedom of expression, and to seeking and disseminating information, may be limited by law where such measures are essential in a democratic society to protect the rights and freedoms of others, the security of the State, public security, public health, and morality.

In accordance with the above, everyone has access to information published on the Internet (providing he/she has the technical equipment necessary) and anyone can publish information, almost without limit. If an individual wishes to publish on the Internet, they can choose from a number of ISPs which offer free web hosting. People are usually asked to fill in a registration agreement which usually states that:
  1. Information published must be in harmony with the legal system of the Czech Republic, which must not be violated.

  2. Child pornography, drugs, xenophobia, racism, etc is prohibited.

In cases where this agreement is violated, the ISP usually deletes unsuitable data from its server immediately and without warning. It is not common for people to be accused and tried except in cases where a serious crime is committed.


Internet privacy issues:

On June 1st 2000 the new Law on Personal Data Protection came into force. This law rules that any agency collecting any kind of personal information on a database must inform and ask permission of anyone on whom they gather records. Such agencies must also be registered with the Bureau for Personal Data Protection in the Czech Republic.


Additional information - Internet active law organizations

Ekologický právní servis - Environmental Law Service - http://www.i-eps.cz

Ars Aequi et Boni - http://www.i-pravo.org

Juristic - http://www.juristic.cz



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