Rabbis claim Bezeq delaying kosher Internet

The rabbinical committee on telecommunications may pursue an arrangement with HOT if no agreement is reached with Bezeq.

Bezeq (TASE: BZEQ) has been dragging its heels in the cooperation on kosher Internet access between it and the rabbinical committee on communications, say sources close to the committee. The two sides had agreed on the requirements and conditions for cooperation in the provision of "obscenity-free" Internet services to users in the haredi (ultra-orthodox) sector, but virtually no progress has been made in recent months, despite the media attention and the headlines announcing the launch of commercial services last year.

The sources say that Bezeq fears it could lose revenue because of the fact that haredi customers can obtain kosher Internet and VoIP-based telephony services from rival providers. Since Bezeq's international telephony services subsidiary Bezeq International Ltd. is still unable to offer VoIP telephony because of the Ministry of Communications policy, its competitors, NetVision Ltd. (TASE: ) the ones likely to benefit are its competitors, 012 Smile.Communications Ltd. (Nasdaq:SMLC; TASE: SMLC), which are already able to offer the haredi sector both kosher Internet services and kosher telephony services tailored to the haredi sector's needs. Haredi customers are, in effect, likely to opt for Bezeq International's competitors because of this.

The rabbinical committee would nevertheless prefer to work through Bezeq, given that the Hot Cable Systems Media Ltd. (TASE: HOT) infrastructure has not been rolled out in the places and communities they live in. However, should they fail to reach agreement with Bezeq, the rabbis will pursue an alternative arrangement with HOT.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 18, 2008

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2008

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