By Paul Goble
Information and Mass Communications Minister Nikolay Nikiforob says that budgetary cutbacks mean that the government will close almost all public access Internet points in Russia by the end of this year, a decision that will hit Russians in small towns and villages far harder than those in cities.
That is because most of the public access Internet points now in operation are in villages and small towns where few individuals as yet have their own access to email and the web. Now, even fewer of these people will, and that in turn means that they will be even more dependent on state television and the postal service than they were before (tass.ru/ekonomika/3728315).
Nikiforov says that these points will “stop work almost everywhere,” although he insisted that decisions about which to shut would be taken on a case by case basis. He suggested that such access points would remain “only in the very smallest population points where there are no other means of communication.
The minister suggested that this was not as much a tragedy as many might think because ever more people even in small villages have their own personal access to the Internet. But he acknowledged that the closure of the only way some villagers have to communicate with others outside their home area would have a serious impact on many, including on the post office.
Nikiforov acknowledged as well that this step violates existing law and said that in the coming months, he and his staff would be proposing amendments to bring the law into line with the reality he is creating. He also said that he hoped Rostelkom would invest more, but its spokesman have already indicated that they are not prepared to do so without subsidies.