The APC European Internet Rights Project
Country Report Slovak Republic
By Norbert Brazda
Availability of Internet access40% of Slovak people have access to PCs and 20% of the population use a PC on daily basis. The number of Internet users in Slovakia has increased since 1998 by 4 % and now there are more than 700,000 users, which is about 13 % of the population (http://www.nua.ie/surveys/how_many_online/europe.html). The Internet is mostly used by young people who live in cities. There is a low number of Internet users in the rural areas caused mainly by lower income and computer ownership as well as less computer literacy.
Position of ISPsInternet service providers need to register and get a license for operation. There have been 74 ISP licenses issued in total.
The Internet market changed after several international Internet companies entered Slovakia in past two years. This has lead to a concentration of the Internet market: larger companies have bought many ISPs and many local providers have merged with big ones. Four companies now control most of the Internet market: state owned Slovak Telecom (http://www.telecom.gov.sk/) and private Nextra/Telenor (http://www.nextra.sk), Euroweb (http://www.ew.sk/), ViaPVT (http://www.viapvt.sk/) and Slovanet (http://www.slovanet.sk/).
Slovak Telecom has a monopoly of voice services until the end of the year 2002, but there is open competition in data services. Telecom owns most of the phone network and has been trying to disadvantage private ISPs in the market for leased lines by limiting bandwidth and setting higher prices for users of other ISP companies. The issue was brought for a decision to the Telecommunication Authority (http://www.teleoff.gov.sk/) and this ordered Telecom to provide the same conditions for its own users and for other ISPs users. Private ISP responded also by building microwave radio networks to provide Internet access for their clients in the larger cities. According to information from Slovak Telecom, the company is testing DSL technology for Internet access. UPC, the cable television network (http://www.upc.sk/) has plans to start to offer Internet access during 2001.
ISPs offer universal dial-in access numbers for the whole of Slovakia with local rates tariffs. The price for unlimited dial-up access is about 6 USD per month, which is about 3% of the average monthly salary. Since the beginning of the year 2001 Kiwwi (http://www.kiwwi.sk/), the first free dial-up access provider has started to operate in Slovakia.
Degree of Internet censorshipSlovakia has no special legislation relating to Internet content, but existing legislation can be applied. There is a law on advertising that prohibits sending advertising through unsolicited bulk emails, legislation on protection against libel and other laws that can be used. This legislation has not been made with the Internet in mind and it is quite difficult to use it in that environment. Enforcement of such legislation is complicated by the fact that the Slovak authorities are not ready to deal with Internet technologies. For example, the police have not been able to find the authors of a web page with fascist content (the page has been registered at Slovak TLD authority) or act against the authors of unsolicited bulk emails containing advertising.
The registration of Internet domains under .sk TLD is free but limited to 5 domains registered by one legal entity (http://www.sk-nic.sk/). Rules for registration are quite unclear and their enforcement might be questionable in controversial cases.
Internet privacy issuesA new Law on Telecommunications approved in May 2000 introduces the term "telecommunication secret" which protects all data transmitted by users from disclosure. The interception of email and other data communication is possible only in special circumstances defined by the law and after approval by the courts. In such cases, the ISP is required to co-operate with the police or other state authorities and to reveal user data. The protection of data on private individuals is covered by the Law on Personal Data Protection that sets provisions for storing and using personal data in electronic information systems. It requires registration of such information systems with the state authority. In a case of breaking this law, the company can be fined.
Additional informationOn January 1, 2001 there is a new Freedom of Information Act in force (http://www.infozakon.sk/). Among other requirements, it forces the state authorities and municipalities to provide a certain amount of information they hold (e.g. all public registries, commonly asked information) through Internet.
The Government in co-operation with the Slovak Association for Electronic Commerce (http://www.saec.sk/) is preparing proposals for a law on electronic signature and a law on electronic commerce, but the process is very slow. Proposals have been recently released for public comments and should be approved in the coming months (which means a delay of several months compared with the original time schedule).
The government and large ISPs support project "Infovek" (http://www.infovek.sk/) whose aim is to deliver Internet access to all primary and secondary schools in Slovakia. There are some plans for the consolidation of government Internet infrastructure on a central as well as a regional level. Proposals for the delivery of Internet access to municipalities are also being discussed.