Panel looks to scrap NTT line fee by 2010

by Tomoko Otake

The 72,800 yen upfront fee charged to land-based telephone line subscribers should be phased out by fiscal 2010, a telecommunications ministry panel said in a report released Tuesday.

A subcommittee of the ministry’s Information and Communications Council made the recommendation to Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. in an attempt to make fixed phone lines more attractive to consumers.

But the move is sure to spark protests from some of the 60 million individual and corporate subscribers of fixed phone lines, who have forked out a combined 4.6 trillion yen to finance the construction of phone networks nationwide and would lose their rights to resell their lines to private-sector brokers.

The move could also force about 300 phone-line brokers out of business.

The panel’s report says the fee has “already lost its original purpose” because land line networks are mostly complete and no major capital investments are necessary for NTT, which collects the fee.

The report says that if NTT abolishes the fee, it should do so in stages to mitigate the impact on consumers and businesses. It cites the example of similar subscription fees for cellular phones that were phased out in five years, and the fact that most pawn shops have extended five-year loans in exchange for telephone lines.

Tuesday’s report is not final, and the government will solicit comments from the public through late August.

Council members will meet again in September before drafting and approving a final set of recommendations to NTT in October, ministry officials said.