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Iran gives 48 hours to mobile operators to fix exorbitant data prices

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iranian government authorizes hefty fines for two main mobile operators over expensive internet.

The Iranian government has authorized a move by the country’s telecoms regulator to impose hefty fines on two main mobile operators over a move last month to increase the price of internet.

A decree issued by Iranian Vice-President Es’haq Jahangiri on Tuesday and addressed to relevant government departments, including the telecoms ministry, allowed imposing fines on service providers of up to 0.1 percent of their yearly revenues for every day they insist on violating government regulations on mobile data pricing.

That could amount to 5.1 trillion rials (more than $23 million) for MCI, the largest mobile operator in Iran, and 3.3 trillion rials ($15 million) for MTN Irancell. The fine would cover nearly a month of refusal to restore previous prices, said a report by the semi official ILNA news agency.

Increasing the price of mobile internet, which accounts for a bulk of data used in Iran, has sparked massive anger in Iran.

Internet users believe the MCI and MTN Irancell have hugely benefitted from increased use of internet during the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the country as people have spent weeks at home to comply with government restrictions to contain the virus.

Telecoms regulator authorities said earlier this month that there was a need for a government’s permission to significantly increase fines so that mobile operators would comply with orders and review the charges.  

Hossein Fallah Joshaghani, a deputy telecoms minister and regulator chief, suggested in an interview with the official IRNA news agency that MCI, also known as Hamrah-e- Aval, has an annual gross income of 170 trillion rials (over $770 million) while MTN Irancell earns nearly 110 trillion rials ($500 million) mainly from data services it provides to subscribers.

The report by ILNA said the two mobile companies will have 48 hours to restore previous internet prices or pay the hefty fines.

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