Chaos in the communications market – notice

Over the past few weeks, I have been personally exposed to the chaos of the Israeli communications market.

It all started when I arrived home one day to discover workers from communication company Partner entering the communication infrastructure of the apartment building where I live – both underground, along the sidewalk to the outside and inside the building, in the communication cabinets attached to each apartment.

The workers explained that they are spreading fiber optics, so that we can all enjoy the fast Internet.

It should be emphasized that what we are talking about is the fiber optic infrastructure, which the communication companies provide for free, and not the connection of individual households to the fiber optic services, which are purchased from these companies. .

I pointed out to partner employees that Bezeq had already spread fiber optics in our building in February 2021.

“Who authorized you to broadcast your optical fibers in our building? ” I asked.

“The house committee,” they replied.

“I’m a member of the house committee and I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I replied.

I called the boss of the workers, whose number they gave me, and he gave me the name of the committee member who would have authorized Partner’s entry into the building and signed a document to this effect. . It turned out to be an elderly woman putting flowerpots in the lobby when they arrived. She explained that she believed she had been asked to sign a piece of paper authorizing the partner to place a notice on the building’s bulletin board.

Either way, Partner entered our building at their convenience, although according to the communications law, communications companies are not only supposed to receive approval from the majority of apartment owners or the committee of home to expand their networks in the building. , but are also expected to coordinate the time of their arrival with them.

The partner workers not only messed up the building, but also broke the lock on the private communication cabinet in one of the apartments, even though the owners were at home at the time, and the workers would have could simply ring the bell and ask for their permission to open the practice. In accordance with the Communications Act, the partner is obliged to pay compensation for any damage caused by it. In this case, the damage was minimal, but angered the owners endlessly.

Around the same time, while walking through my neighborhood, I discovered more than a dozen workers, dressed in brand new Partner vests, opening the entrances to the underground communication channels and underground communication cabinets of Bezeq. , all around the neighborhood, and looking at them. When I jokingly asked their boss if Partner had decided to invade our neighborhood, he reacted as if someone had been caught doing something they weren’t supposed to and asked its employees not to talk to me.

It may well be that Partner was not breaking the law, and well within his rights, although I doubt that he coordinated his activities with Bezeq, but his conduct reflects the failure of the Ministry of Communications, which last year (when Yoaz Hendel was Minister of Communications in the Netanyahu-Gantz government for the first time) announced his intention that as part of the policy of accelerating the spread of optical fibers throughout the country (Israel was far behind the rest of the industrial world in this area), he sought to ensure that in every apartment building, only one company will be responsible for the spreading of optical fibers, and other companies will be able to use these fibers for their own services against payment.

The idea was that letting all communication companies extend their own fibers in each building was a financial waste and a serious nuisance to the inhabitants of the buildings, and the proposal was that the companies should work together for this and make appropriate financial arrangements. between them, and all after Bezeq – Israel’s oldest and largest communications company, which for many years held a monopoly in this area – pledged to broadcast 80% of the county’s fiber optics in six years.

It turned out that the different companies failed to come to an agreement (it is not even known if they even tried) so that there is fierce competition between them – at least in the center of the country. , and in neighborhoods with many large Apartment towers.

Incidentally, this unbridled competition is also reflected in the efforts of these companies to corner each other’s customers.

The other day I received a phone call (on my partner cell phone) from a representative of HOT, who provides me with television services. He told me that they had received a request from me to connect to their internet services.

I denied contacting HOT about this or any other company. “I am completely satisfied with the service I receive from Bezeq International. They are available on the phone 24/7, respond immediately and always solve my problem on the spot.

The HOT man kept insisting that I had filled out an online form, in which case I just hung up. By the way, HOT’s technical TV services are nothing to write home about.

What all of this suggests is that while free competition is certainly preferable to monopolies, at least in Israel, free competition is frequently counterproductive, unless some order is introduced through government regulations. In this case, I think the ministry should have said that unless the communications companies share the market and agree to share their infrastructure with other companies, it will do it itself. The current state of affairs is a nuisance.

The situation on the outskirts requires another type of intervention. When Bezeq pledged to expand fiber optics to 80% of the country, he pledged to do so also in part, but not all, of the periphery, which is not seen as lucrative. The ministry plans to offer financial incentives to companies, other than Bezeq, to ​​enter areas that are not covered by Bezeq. Hopefully this plan will be implemented – supposedly after the adoption of the budget.

A worker holding a fiber optic cable (credit: INGIMAGE PHOTOS)

There is an additional fiber optic problem that needs to be mentioned.

When Shas’ Arye Deri was still Home Secretary in the previous government, he blocked efforts by the Communications Ministry to ensure that all new buildings in the future will include fiber optic infrastructure, as well as water and electricity infrastructure. Deri refused to sign regulations to this effect, because in the Haredi community the internet is banned (although it is assumed that more than half of Haredi households are connected to the internet).

On his last day as Home Secretary, Deri signed the settlement with certain reservations, which exclude Haredi towns from the settlement. It is believed that Hendel will attempt to get current Home Secretary Ayelet Shaked to approve the settlement as originally proposed.

Another issue, which is apparently not connected to fiber optics, concerns unauthorized hacked internet services provided within the Arab community in the north of the country. The Communications Ministry contacted the police to help them deal with the problem.

Hopefully the order will finally be introduced across the communications industry.

The writer was a researcher at the Knesset Research and Information Center until his retirement, and recently published a book in Hebrew, The Job of the Knesset Member – An Undefined Job, which will soon be published in English by Routledge.

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