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New Media -> Bosnia and Herzegovina
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: ON THE THRESHOLD OF AN INTERNET ERA
12.12.2001: Marija Putica

According to research carried out by the agency MarecoIndex Bosnia, in the year 2000 only 5.4 percent of adult citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina had access to the Internet. Data referred to by the Communication Regulatory Agency – CRA (David Betts, CONVERGENCE AND THE DIGITAL DIVIDE: A ROADMAP FOR BiH AND SEE, www.mediaonline.ba) shows that in December 2000 there were 176 Internet users per 10,000 citizens of all ages, or 1.76 percent. Bearing in mind that this figure shows only Internet access, i.e. only the possibility of Internet use, not how much it is actually used, it is clear that Bosnia-Herzegovina is at the bottom of the European ladder. Being so far behind in the use of new communication technologies has a cause-and-effect relationship with the development of online communication.

We must look at online communication in Bosnia-Herzegovina separately for the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska in view of the differentiated system in this country.             Online communication in the Federation is carried out via telecommunication centers, while in the Republika Srpska these services are offered by private providers. The areas of activity of these subjects do not overlap and everyone has monopoly “in its area.” As the existence of monopoly implies rather indolent behavior, regularly at the expense of users, it is encouraging that the Communication Regulatory Agency of Bosnia-Herzegovina has been established. The agency was founded in March 2001 for the purpose of carrying out regulatory functions in all telecommunication fields in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Procedures are now being put in place for licensing Internet service providers (ISPs). All existing Internet service providers in Bosnia-Herzegovina were obliged to send required registration documents to the Agency by the end of November. If they receive a license, the Agency will protect them and control their market conduct.

The Agency’s future specific tasks cannot be anticipated today due to constant changes in this field. The establishment of the Agency which is in charge of providing for legal and ethical conduct of services in Bosnia-Herzegovina is certainly a valuable step in establishing supervision over this form of communication.

By looking at analysis of the work of existing providers in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the requirement to send documentation to the Agency, we can expect positive changes in the attitude towards users. Internet service providers in Bosnia-Herzegovina, generally speaking, are now focused on financial gain, without concern for users. There are no statistics on user classification or number of users per type. Due to all this, concern for users is one of the more important conditions in the Agency’s requirement.

Although initially designed and started as a means of communication, the Internet has developed into an important means of cooperation as well. For this reason the Agency can be expected to mediate in mutual linking of related Internet resources in Bosnia-Herzegovina. This means: creation of Internet communities; traditional and multimedia communication and cooperation; cooperation in distance learning; and using the web as a cooperation tool. “Internet communities” means communities with specific interests and values, exchange of ideas and resources, and a way of organizing membership. “Traditional and multimedia communication and cooperation” would strive to substitute traditional ways of communication via the Internet with multimedial ways. E-mail was a revolution when it appeared but today information is exchanged and processed in completely different ways. The Internet can be used to watch television, download audio and video material and hold conferences. “Cooperation in distance learning” would stimulate individuality in education, and the “web as a cooperation tool” would bring world wide web-cooperation tools closer to users.

It has been mentioned above that online communication in the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina is carried out via telecommunication centers which have their own Internet providers and also rent out their space to other providers, while in the Republika Srpska private providers directly own their space. The following domains were available for Bosnia-Herzegovina until recently: .com, .net, .org, .ba. New “top” domains have now been registered: .biz, .info, .name, .pro, .aero, .coop, .museum. Individuals can also register their own domains.

The first professional Internet service provider in Bosnia-Herzegovina was BIHnet. The most interesting service packages offered by this provider are Student Package and Audio-Video Broadcasting services.

Student Package is used by elementary and high school students and full-time university students and it offers the benefit of less costly subscription and Internet time. Monthly subscription costs 5 KM (equivalent to 5 German marks) and use of the public commuted telephone network or ISDN network costs 0.0099 KM. The package includes a 20 MB e-mail box.

Audio-Video Broadcasting via BIHnet Real Server enables radio and TV broadcasting on the Internet, allowing users to present their program to 250 million Internet users. Radio and TV stations broadcasting their programming on the Internet access the BIHnet network via a leased line, leasing a desired number of IP addresses. Monthly subscription for using a modem costs 20 KM and the amount of subscription depends on whether it is based on transmission speed or a package of IP addresses. In case of subscription based on transmission speed, ranging from 19.2 Kb/s to 2048 Kb/s, the price ranges from 575 KM to 27,100 KM. Subscription based on a package of IP addresses ranges from 16 IP addresses to 256 IP addresses at a price of 70 KM to 700 KM.

In the Republika Srpska the most important Internet service provider is Blic.net Banja Luka, which has a digital optical link to partners in Western Europe. One hundred and twenty digital modem lines with support for ISDN and V.90 protocols are available for users. Also available are good quality Compaq servers and Cisco communication equipment, which makes this provider important in implementing projects in the field of computer and information systems. The Web hosting service enables clients to set up data bases on Linux and NT servers at the following prices:

 

Base 5 MB                              15 KM monthly

Base 10 MB                            25 KM monthly

Base 25 MB                            30 KM monthly

Base 50 MB                            50 KM monthly

 

The Internet is primarily a result of strict application of certain commercial standards, which means that there is a high degree of order on the net in the technical and communication sense. But many believe that in the sense of content, there is anarchy on the Internet and that it simply must be so. However, each provider in Bosnia-Herzegovina places before its users an Internet Use Request and Internet Conduct Rules (netiquette). Conditions for Internet service use contain the right to restrict or abolish service access rights if a user utilizes the service in an inappropriate manner.

 

Marija Putica teaches Information Science at the Journalism Studies of the University of Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and is a permanent contributor to Media Plan Institute. Translation by: K. H. ©Media Online 2001. All rights reserved.

 
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