Euro-IR Project Main Index



The APC European Internet Rights Project

Country Report — Hungary

Robert Fridrich, Green Spider, Hungary (2001)


Population: 10.04 million people)
Main Telephone Lines (1996-98): 336 / 1000 people
Cellular subscribers (1996-98):105 / 1000 people
Personal computers (1996-98): 55 / 1000 people
Internet hosts (1998): 9.41 / 1000 people
(UN Human development Report, 2000)



Internet access

This is the most important part of internet rights in Hungary. Recent studies show that the costs of internet access in Hungary are among the highest in the world (but at least in Europe). This is mainly due to high telephone costs.

While Hungary made significant development in the field of cable and mobile phone communications and building cable television networks, there is still to do in the field of informatic infrastructure. Figures show the need of development in this filed: in the end of 1999 only 6-12 people out of 100 had home computers and 7-8% had internet access - compared to the average 34 or 19 in EU countries. Only 4-5% of Hungarian households have internet access - with a very high cost in European context.[1]

Research made in the 2nd half of 2000 by the GfK Market Research Institute show that 1.2 million adults have internet acces in Hungary. This is 14% of the 15 year or older population - in 1998 it was only 9%. [2]


The development in internet acces is ambivalent in Hungary.

The academic/university sector is is very well developed with internet host. In every universities, colleguees are internet host.

The previous government started a SULINET (Schoolnet) program in 1997 so that there is already internet access in almost every secondary schools and in many primary schools.

Actually there is a weak representativity of the internet society in Hungary.
  • Közhely Egyesület - which setuped in 1996 to work for internet acces for everyone. Unfortunately this group never became strong and slowly disappeared/dissolved.

  • Center for Culture and Communication (C3) - a foundation funded by Gyorgy Soros -- provided free dialup access for NGOs and NGO activist between 1997 and 1999 (unfortunately they closed this part of their program in the end of 1999) -- they introduced the first FREEMAIL with POP3 access (10 minutes / day free email access / only the phone cost to be paid) -- later they passed it to MATÁV, the Hungarian telecom company - they were one of sponsors of C3 -- leased line gateway for NGOs, communities (only the monthly fee of the phone line to be paid for the telecom, but no traffic costs since the gateway access provided by C3). This program still continues.


There is a quiet good telehouse network in Hungary providing internet acces in some bigger cities and some village communities.

For consumers and business sector there are 23 ISPs member of the ISZT (Internet Service Providers Society) and many more small local firms. [3]



Cost of internet access

There is no real representativity for internet users, customers.

In the past the Internetto (especially the chief editor András Nyirő), the HVG /some leading internet oriented media/ made some activity and pressure on MATAV for user friendly phone cost. The achievements:
  • night prices: 150 Ft/call ( 0.5 USD/call) - since 1999

  • monthly night package: 4000 Ft/month (14 USD/month) - since 2000 (the MATAV already announced to be closed this package this summer, but no new info about this.)


But even with these special packages the cost of internet use are still very high. A recent OECD study show that the cost of internet access (in PPP - consumer's basket parity) is one of the highest in Hungary (see figure 1.) - although the prices in USD are not so much. [4]



Ther are expectations that the liberalisation of the cable telecom sector will bring lower phone cost, but it is not sure. The governments regulations towards the telecom liberalisation require the share of the income of phone cost between the telecom and ISPs. What modell will be used is not known yet, but MATÁV and Vivendi wants ISPs to by phone minutes in advance. That would lead to a monopoly of Axelero (former MatávNet) on MATÁV areas and V-Net (a Vivendi subsidiary) on Vivendi areas. There is no decision yet. Although Axelero and V-Net already introduces ther special dial-up packages that include phone cost.

There are quite good TV Cabelnet services (TVNET, Axelero and UPC) in some parts of Budapest and some other big cities for a reasonabla parts. The only problem, that this is only a very small part of the country.

A new promise the introduction of ADSL connection on MATAV and Vivendy phone cabel netwotks. On MATAV areas Axelero, TVNET and Enternet provide ADSL services - quasi 'always on' internet access for a reasonably price. On Vivendy areas V-net is the only ADSL provides and this is a reason for the much higher prices. We hope that the liberalisation of thelecommunication will end up this wrong situation.

Leased lines are only avaible trough MATÁV network, this is a reason behind th very high prices of leased lined. Next to the prices paid to ISPs another 150 USD to be paid to MATAV. We expect that with the end of the MATÁV monopoly the prices of leased lines will decline significantly.

Free dial-up access: in december 2000 started two free dial-up service providers, Kiwwi and FreeStart. Freestart is accessible only from Budapest, Kiwwi from Budapest and eight bigger cities. In february Kiwwi had 50.000 registered users. Their users shall pay only for the phone costs. [5]

Table 1. Combined costs of dial-up internet subscription and phone costs (July 2001)

                     5 hrs     10 hrs      20hrs     40 hrs
Peak time        10-20 USD  16-28 USD  26-44 USD  41-83 USD
Non-peak time     7-15 USD  14-21 USD  19-27 USD  34-52 USD


Table 2. Always on / broadband internet costs

                 TV cabel*       ADSL**    Leased   Wireless
                  Networks                  lines   (Pantel)
home             34-38 USD    43-52 USD
Small business     104 USD  129-215 USD   200 USD    270 USD
                            + 150 USD to
                            the MATÁV

* Only in some parts of Budapest and some big cities (Nyíregyháza, Miskolc)

** Recently only in some parts of Budapest and Székesfehérvár (in MATÁV areas). It is also available in Vivendi areas, but for much higher prices (to home users: 108 USD)



Telecom monopoly - until the end of 2001

The access for telephone developed very much in the last ten years. Now everyone can get new phone line within a few days all over the country. The price for the development of telecommunication system was the monopoly of MATÁV (and other local telecom firms) until the end of 2001.

On 80% of Hungary the local phone networks are owned by MATÁV. (In MATÁV stocks Deutsche Telecom has most of the shares.) Other areas were local independent telecom firms, but less than two years ago all of them bought up by Vivendi. So MATÁV and Vivendi has a monopoly on the local telephone market until the end of 2001. The internet society expect lower prices with the liberalisation of the telecom market.

The mobile phone market is very well developed. There are 3 GSM companies (Westel 900, Pannon GSM and Vodafon) and the Westel Rádiótelefon Kft (with 450 Mhz). Recent figures show that there are more than 3 million mobile phone users in the country.



Right to Information

There is a legislation about the right for access to information. The government also going to ratify the Aarhus convention.

Access to laws and government legislation information (ministry orders, etc.). The laws voted by the Parliament are accessible for free from the Parliament's website [6] but lower level legislation documents are accessible only for the subscribers of the Kerszöv Complex CD-Law-Database [7].



Internet Rights Groups in Hungary?

- The Közhely Egyesület mentioned above doesn't really exist.

- MIME (Magyar Internet- és számítógép-használók MagánEgylete - Hungarian Internet and Computer Users' Private Society) [8] - sometimes their voice and name heard, but they are very weak, almost invisible

- LME - Linux-felhasználók Magyarországi Egyesülete (Hungarian Linux Users' Association). [9] This is a very fast developing group, but much more focused open source and Linux, not internet irghts.

- There is a very well developed Telehouse network in Hungary.[10] In many cities and villages are community access networks.

- Probaly there are some hacker and cyberpunk group, but not in an organised structure.



Gender

Recent studies show that 44% of the regular internet users in Hungary are women. This is higher than the European average (40%), especially higher than percentage in the neighbour Czech Republic (20%). Experts say that the reason behind this high rate is that in Hungary most of the users have internet access only at their workplace, and in the offices more women are employed. [11]



Internet Governance

The registration and administration of *.hu domain names is organised by ISZT - the Internet Service Providers' Society. The domain name market has been liberalised in March 2000. Since then everyone can register any *.hu domain at any of the ISZT member ISPs. There are some claims that ISZT has a quasi monopoly in the domain issues and they are similar in national level as ICANN has in world level. Their legitimacy can also be questioned.

Many people say that the domain name registration cost are high (20-35 USD).



Censorship

Not a real problem, but there was one case in 1996, when the Scienthology Church successfully forced the ELTE University to remove an article about The Fishman Affidavit. [12]



Internet Security and wiretapping, internet police

The awereness about the need of security (eg. Firewalls) is not so high in Hungary. Mostly advanced users (especially system operators and linux gurus) use firewall programs. PGP or other encoding is very rare used in Hungary.

Since there were some famous cracker attack on some big ISP servers in early 2000, the police setuped a new department for internet crime. With court permission they can use

intelligence instrument like email wiretapping. Before the NATO/EU summit in May 2001 the Head of the Security Service said in the media that they used internet and email wiretapping in order to filter violent antiglobalisation actions they expected. (Altough we don't have any prove for email wiretapping, much more probably tapping of mobile phones).

The government is introducing digital signature. According to the Digital Signature Act the signature will be able to used for signature only, not for encoding messages. The act will come into force in the autumn this year.



Information Society development

The Inforatics State Governors Office (setuped last year) started several new initiatives in the summer of 2001 for the development of internet society in Hungary uner the frame Szecheny Cheme.

The government wants to spend 40 billion HUF developme of information society and economy. This year the government announced a 1.6 billion HUF grant scheme providing PCs with SUSE Linux for NGOs and Telehouse networks.

Another new initiative by the government the "Electronic Governance". [13] This is a new plan to improve the government's and local authorities' administration developing electronic tools for submitting tax reports, etc.



References:

1. National Information Society Strategy, 2001.; http://www.ikb.hu/download/nits10.pdf

2. Egymillió felett a magyar internetezők száma [Index.hu] http://index.hu/tech/net/millio/

3. Internet Szolgáltatók Tanácsa; http://www.iszt.hu/iszt/

4. OECD: OECD Internet Access Price Comparison http://www.oecd.org/dsti/sti/it/cm/stats/isp-price99.htm

5. Ötvenezer internetező a Kiwwinél; http://index.hu/tech/ihirek/?main:2001.02.13&32405

6. Parliament of Hungarian Republic; www.mkogy.hu

7. Kerszöv Complex CD-Law-Database; http://www.complex.hu/szolgaltatasaink.html

8. Magyar Internet- és Számítógép-használók MagánEgylete; http://www.euroastra.hu/mime/

9. Linux-felhasználók Magyarországi Egyesülete; http://lme.linux.hu/

10. Teleház Kht.; http://www.telehaz.hu/

11. Infokrónika, July 9, 2001, http://www.infokronika.com/musor0709.htm

12. The Fishman Affidavit - removed from http://caesar.elte.hu/Koz-Hely/fishman.html

13. Elektronikus Kormányzat Program; http://www.ikb.hu/ekormanyzat



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