Ben-Dov Meets With Minister to Argue Against Fee Cuts

The mobile companies muster:

Partner Communications has launched another front in its war against the government's plans to lower interconnection fees: Controlling shareholder Ilan Ben-Dov met personally with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz last week, telling him that the country's cellular operators would collapse if the plan goes through.

In addition, Partner CEO David Avner met personally with Finance Ministry Budgets Director Udi Nissan to express opposition to the plan.

The government wants to cap interconnection fees, also known as mobile termination fees, which are the fees that callers pay when they call from one cellular network to another. Currently they're 25 agorot a minute; a clause in the Economic Arrangements Bill would cap them at 4.14 agorot a minute, which the government believes is closer to the cellular companies' cost.

However, these two meetings do not seem to have swayed the Finance Ministry; yesterday, it held a meeting on the Economic Arrangements Bill and decided not to back Partner's demand that the fee reduction be removed.

The two meetings were held before the cellular companies submitted their written opposition to the hearing that Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon is holding for them on the matter.

Partner and its competitors have hired a battery of attorneys, lobbyists and advisers, including many close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other ministers, to aid them in their campaign.

Steinitz has remained firm in his support for reforming the cellular market, including cutting interconnection fees, which he says will help consumers by increasing competition and lowering prices.

Budgets director Nissan also supports the move.