Nigeria: Telcos Against FaceBook’s Free Internet Project In Sub-Saharan Africa

FaceBook, the global social media networking online platform says it is making plans to roll out satellite and drone activities to provide free internet services to rural and Sub-Saharan African.

This plan, however, is causing unease with Telecom operators in Nigeria. They fear that it will negatively affect revenue from their broadband services, more so since they have paid a substantial license fee for the same services that unlicensed operators will be providing.

Protesting the proposed Facebook move, Telcos in Nigeria are arguing that the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) is responsible for the regulation of the supply of telecommunication services in the Nigerian market; and as such, in order to get a balanced result, the NCC should ensure that it puts in place a harmonious set of rules and obligations to be adhered to by all.

The NCC is however dogged in its determination not to include the Over The Top (OTT) media services among those it would regulate because, according to it, they are creating the provision of innovative services that will offer valuable options to users.

Speaking on the matter, the Director, Public Affairs for NCC, Mr Tony Ojobo said that regulating OTT is not up for discussion with regards to regulation at the moment. Revealing that the instant Nigerian Telcos complained about how the OTT is eating into their profit, they were made to understand that they are operating in a liberalised market where service operators should be offering users value. He said “We can’t stop technology. People are birthing ideas and there is no stopping them.”

On the other hand, Engineer Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecom Operators in Nigeria (ALTON), admitted that FaceBook’s free internet project and other initiatives by OTTs would affect their return on investments but no one can place a lid on technology since it is about developing the people and communities.

He insisted that to protect the market, industry players and the security of the nation, the government needs to take certain preventive measures. He talked about the risk the nation will be in with the law enforcement’s inability to monitor communication that is conducted over such networks and the fact that these OTTs are not paying taxes in the country as the Telcos do.

Mr Adebayo strongly believes that NCC should intervene by introducing regulations to ensure a balanced playing field.

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