MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s leading telecoms operators have asked the government to subsidize their purchases of equipment they need to comply with a new data storage law, a letter seen by Reuters showed.
The request was made by Russia’s biggest mobile phone operator MTS, state-controlled telecoms group Rostelecom and operators Megafon and Vimpelcom, as well as Digital Economy, a non-commercial group set up by businesses to help implement the government’s digitalization program.
A law came into force last year requiring operators to store the content of calls and correspondence for six months to help Russia’s security services. Industry lobbies and internet freedom advocates raised concerns about the legislation.
Leading operators have said they will each spend at least 40 billion roubles ($627 million) on implementing the legislation over the next five years.
In the letter, sent this month, operators asked two government ministries to help draw up a resolution that would set rules for granting subsidies to banks and leasing companies, so they can offer loans and contracts for buying equipment at preferential rates.
Rostelecom confirmed the letter had been sent. The other operators declined to comment. The communications ministry confirmed it had received the letter.
“The costs of buying equipment to gather information for telecoms operators... could amount to from 10% to 20% of their overall spending on supporting and developing information networks over the next five years,” the letter says.
The operators, arguing their case, pointed to an existing national program that envisages government support for Russian companies that produce telecoms equipment domestically and preferential loans for companies that buy it.
Under the data storage law, operators are required to use Russian-made equipment.
The data storage legislation was one of several Internet laws passed by Russia in recent years.
Other laws require search engines to delete some results, oblige messaging services to share encryption keys with security services and make social networks store Russian users’ personal data on servers within the country.
Reporting by Nadezhda Tsydenova; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Susan Fenton