Relief for broadband operators as govt mulls bailout
By Prince Osuagwu & Emmanuel Elebeke
Indications emerged at the weekend that government may provide some bailout to broadband operators in order to take services to the rural areas. Last mile issues have been the albatross to fully hernessing the landing and subsequent commercial operations of two submarine broadband cables in Nigeria, Glo1 and MainOne broadband cables.
But in a breakfast meeting with ICT industry stakeholders at the weekend, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Dr Eugene Juwah admitted that time has come for government to intervene in Broadband deployment in a non-competitive manner in order not to compromise the operators licenses.
Juwah gave the indication that his commission was going to work out a way in which the government can truly assist to bring ubiquitous broadband advantage to every Nigerian irrespective of where they live.
Juwah was actually reacting to the appeal made by the Chairman of Linkserve, Chima Onyekwere that NCC should provide a fund as a bail out to subsidise Broadband . Onyekwere specifically said the fund should be called ‘Broadband support Fund’. He also made case for high cost of Payment for frequency and appealed for a slash.
Meanwhile, CEO of MainOne cable company also added that while NCC would be negotiating bail out options, it should also discuss modalities for access and pricing so that the whole thing would come as a full package, to make a meaning.
Other issues that arose at the meeting included NCC would maintain local content and if it will audit the licenses issued over the years to know how many of them are operating. The stakeholders also raised issues of protecting smaller companies to ensure their survival in a fircely competitive market like Nigeria..
The EVC however reacted that the NCC would ensure that smaller companies must remain in business and that every attempt to muscle them out of business will be rebuffed by his commission. Juwah said that the ICT sector is a liberalized one which makes NCC duty bound by the Telecoms Act to protect all operators in the industry.
For Engr Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman Association of Licensed Telecom Companies of Nigeria, ALTON, the industry gradually precipitating into peril. Companies are dying and unable to survive the hard times. Time has come to approach government to do something for the sector.
He was very emphatic that even if the NCC provides subsidy for Broadband rollout, the multiple Right of Way price the operators have to pay from the various tiers of governments would also rock the boat.