State Agengy for IT and Communications
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria
Presented by H.E. Nikolay Tsachev, Ambassador of the Republic of Bulgaria to Brazil.
Bulgarian Experience before, during and after the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)
Since 2000 Bulgaria has accepted several new telecommunications laws, and currently the most recent one is the Law for Electronic Services. It is the foundation law for the development of the sector of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)
Under the current law, the policy making governmental body in the field of ICT is the State Agency for Information Technologies and Communications (SAITC). Among other activities, it has the following tasks:
- drafting and submitting for adoption by the Council of Ministers of electronic communications policy and strategies, as well as policy, strategies and programmes in the field of information society;
- creating conditions to ensure freedom and confidentiality of communications;
- representing the Republic of Bulgaria in the international organisations in the field of electronic communications and the Information Society;
- securing the governmental communications network and infrastructure.
The National Regulatory Body is the Communications Regulation Commission (CRC).
Cyber-crime is the subject of the Penal Code. A chapter, Computer crimes was introduced therein five years ago, with experts' support from the Internet Society. Under its provisions, computer crimes can be punished with up to 8 years in prison.
Bulgaria has actively participated in the preparation of the WSIS and the WSIS itself. Our government was represented in Tunis by the Chairman of the State Agency for Information Technologies and Communications (SAITC), a Government body created in 2005. Members of the Bulgarian Mission to the United Nations in Geneva regularly participate in meetings at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and at the European Union (EU).
In 2003 the Republic of Bulgaria gave its active contribution towards the agreement on the creation of the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG). Mr. Markus Kummer, career diplomat from Switzerland and executive coordinator of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), has noted the Bulgarian contribution in several interviews since 2003.
Representatives of the civil society, namely representatives from the Internet Society of Bulgaria (ISOC.bg) have been included in the Bulgarian delegation since the very beginning. This proved to be a very successful model both for Bulgaria as a country, and for the WSIS. The conclusions and recommendations of the WSIS have been implemented successfully in Bulgaria, and here is the current state of the Internet governance in my country:
Internet Service Providers are not subject to licensing or any kind of registration
- There is no control over the IP address allocation and the Domain Name System
- The state keeps control still over the Telephone Number Mapping (ENUM) - a function that is being performed by the State ITC Agency, in coordination with the Internet Society of Bulgaria, and which on a global level is being managed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
- The current and the previous Bulgarian Presidents are both members of the Internet Society. The same applies to the Prime Minister Mr. Sergey Stanishev, and the chairman of the ITC Agency, Mr. Plamen Vatchkov. A number of members of the Parliament have joined the efforts of ISOC.bg in creating a very Internet-friendly legal environment.
- The ITC Agency has very good working relations with a number of other non-governmental bodies, besides ISOC-Bulgaria, among them: the Electronic Communications Society (ISP association), the Telecommunications Association, the Bulgarian IT Association, and others.
One may ask, But, what are the results of this cooperation for the Internet users in Bulgaria?.
The results are actually quite good: the number of Internet users have exceeded 35 % of the population above the age of 15. Because there is no restriction to enter the market, it is highly competitive, and as a result, prices are low. Currently the Bulgarian Internet Service Providers are building their own high-speed Internet backbone, where the end-users are almost always given the opportunity to connect at speeds of 100 Mbps, and often 1000 Mbps. The average monthly bill paid today is less than 20 Euro. Internet providers are also offering additional services for example legal download of music and video, and Voice over Internet Protocol (or VoIP, as it is known).
The legal framework has been following the golden rule, which our delegation already shared during one of the WSIS prepcoms - and that is the Russian saying, rabotaet ne trogai, or if it works, don't touch it. There was an attempt in 1999 by the government to implement licenses for the Internet Service Providers, which was met with astonishing resistance by the Bulgarian Internet Society. This was a lesson, which our government learned well, and since then each of the following governments showed they remember it. Our previous Parliament put together a group of experts, consisting of members of the Parliament, the National Regulatory Authority, representatives of the private business and of the civil society to work upon the draft of the Telecommunications Act. The result today is clearly speaking that this was not only a good choice, but the best choice: The Internet world in Bulgaria today is built on the foundation of public-private partnership.
The result of this approach is visible in the following facts:
- The number of Internet users has jumped 35 times in the last 8 years from 76,000 in 1999 to almost 3 million today.
- There are today about a dozen large foreign investors in the telecommunications and the Internet market in Bulgaria. Telecommunication companies like Deutsche Telekom (through their Hungarian subsidiary Matav), investment funds from the European Union, Switzerland, and the USA have invested a lot of money in the Bulgarian ICT market.
- There are more than Euro 1.84 billion invested in the Bulgarian telecom market only in the last two years, since the foundation of the State ITC Agency.
Further to this fact, I'd like to note also the following facts: The State ITC Agency represents Bulgaria at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Universal Postal Union and the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT), the Council of Europe (Steering Committee on the Media and New Communication Services). As we meet here, in Rio, Bulgaria is also formally joining as an observer to the Regional Commonwealth of Communications (RCC), which combines the efforts of East Europe and Central Asia to bridge the digital divide on their way to the Information Society.
Last year, the ITC Agency hosted delegation of world-wide know IT-gurus, who participated in the open session of the IT Advisory Committee to the President of the Republic of Bulgaria. Some of the members of that delegation are here, in Rio Dr. Vint Cerf, Vice-President of Google; Lynn St.Amour, President and CEO of the Internet Society; George Sadowsky, Special Adviser to Nitan Desai; Fred Baker, former Chairman of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and former Chairman of ISOC; Esther Dyson, who chaired the ICANN Board in 1999, and many more. We were really lucky to be able to host all those people, whose advice and guidance are quite valuable for the general development of the Bulgarian Internet policy.
Clearly, the successful policy Bulgaria has executed in the field of Internet, and the way it handled the hot issues around the Internet Governance, are a sign that it is possible to have a working model of cooperation, or may be even collaboration between the civil society, the private businesses, and the government.
This is the Bulgarian positive contribution to the discussions around the controversial topic of how the Internet is being governed. Our policy has been consistent in the last 8 years through public-private partnership, through self-regulation and with support from the Internet Service Providers whenever cyber-crime has been an issue.
We have to note also, that such a positive development of the Internet is to be found among the most technologically developed countries. Therefore, Bulgaria being still among the last in economic development among the European Union members, scores high on liberalization of the telecommunication services, and the Internet.
We are ready to share our experience.
Bulgaria is planning to enhance its cooperation in 2008 with the ITU and its member states, as we are going to chair the ITU council from January 1st. 2008.
Further, we are planning an international cyber-security forum in Sofia in October of 2008, and if you are interested, then again feel free to contact me after the session, or write directly to the ITC Agency at the address provided below.
Contact for the governmental ITC agency: