The head of Russia's Communications Ministry, Nikolai Nikiforov, has criticized the country's largest telecoms operator, Rostelecom, for failing to address "digital inequality" in the country.
Speaking to Dozhd TV on Tuesday night, the Russian communications chief slammed Rostelecom for failing to act to address the issue of uneven access to the internet across Russia. While in Moscow six out of 10 households have internet access, the average for the rest of the country is two or three out of 10, he said.
"We think Rostelecom should play a key role in developing wired broadband access, and that it has every opportunity to do so" Nikiforov said, reiterating the government target of ensuring 5 million households have access to the internet at speeds of 100 MB per second by 2015.
Nikiforov singled out Rostelecom's investment strategy, which has primarily focused on expanding its market share by acquiring other companies, as inadequate. This, Nikiforov said, means the company's energies are focused on areas that are already connected to the internet, rather than acting to expand internet access.
"Perhaps this makes good business sense, but Rostelecom nonetheless has a very particular mission: we feel that the company must provide access where it has a competitive advantage, and where, perhaps, other companies cannot" he concluded.
In the period 2012-2013 Rostelecom is set to invest 8 billion rubles (over $ 256 million) in expanding internet access in rural areas.
This is not the first time the communications giant has come in for criticism, its management and operational efficiency have both been targeted in the past.
Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich has also publicly questioned Rostelecom's operating strategy and investment programs.