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A Lower House panel said Thursday that interconnection fees charged by NTT East Corp. and NTT West Corp. to other carriers for accessing their phone lines should remain unchanged for the 2003 business year.

The House of Representatives Committee on Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications reached the conclusion based on the view that the public should pay the same amount for telecommunication services regardless of location.

The committee is strongly against setting varying fees based on regional business performance, and is seeking to deter hikes in basic charges.

The panel’s support of unified fees is in contrast to the Telecommunications Council, an advisory panel to the telecom ministry, which has called for NTT East and NTT West to set different fees in accordance with their business strengths.

The ministry will make a decision on the access fees by the end of the year after hearing views from a wide range of people, including telecom carriers and users.

Telecommunications minister Toranosuke Katayama said he hopes to come up with appropriate measures that will result in “fair and inexpensive fees for the public.”

In other news, the panel agreed to call for abolishing the current formula for calculating interconnection fees and to put priority on Japan’s national interests during negotiations with the United States on such fees.

NTT’s interconnection fees have long been criticized by the U.S., Britain and other countries because they are much higher than fees in many countries.

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