As Senate Stops Data Tariff Hike By NCC, Telcos | Independent Newspapers Limited
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As Senate Stops Data Tariff Hike By NCC, Telcos

Posted: Nov 30, 2016 at 7:48 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Ejikeme  Omenazu

Lagos-  The Senate on Wednesday November 30, 2016 ordered the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to halt plans by mobile telecommunications operators to hike data tariffs. Prior to the Senate’s order, the hike was scheduled to take effect from Thursday, December 1, 2016. The Senators issued the directive during their plenary.

According to the lawmakers, all parties must be duly consulted for mutual conclusion before such decision could be made. The MTN, Airtel and Eitsalat had in the past weeks inundated their customers with text messages announcing their plans to hike the data tariffs.

The NCC in a letter to mobile operators, had stated that the interim floor price for data services was 0.90k/MB for big operators, and that “this rate will subsist pending the finalisation of the study on the determination of cost based pricing for retail broadband and data services in Nigeria.

“In order to provide a level playing field for all operators in the industry, small operators and new entrants to acquire market share and operate profitably small operators and new entrants are hereby exempted for the price floor for data services.

“For the avoidance of doubt a small operator is one that has less than 7.5 percent market share and a new entrant is an operator that has operated less than three years in the market.
“All operators are to ensure that subscribers are not automatically migrated to pay-as-you-go platform.
“Also, note that effective date for the interim price floor is December 1, 2016.”
There has been lots of kicks and criticisms from Nigerians who insisted that these are not the best times for such decision.

Ashafa Promises To Intervene

Speaking shortly after the announcement was made, Senator representing Lagos East, Gbenga Ashafa said he will reach out to his colleagues in the Senate to intervene on the matter.

Ashafa, who is the Chairman, Senate  Committee on Land Transport in a message to our correspondent said “My attention has been drawn to the directive by the NCC to operators to increase data tariffs,in a purported bid to encourage competition.
Certainly there are more creative ways to achieve needed competition than inadvertently stifling the ability of  Nigerians to access data. I will reach out to my colleagues in the Senate Committee on Communications over-sighting the NCC on the need to urgently intervene”.

Consumers kick

The National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) had earlier described the NCC’s data tariff increase as insensitive. Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, the NATCOMS President, said in a statement that the percentage of the increment was not disclosed yet, but might be doubled. According to him,”We view the directive as insensitive and callous. Since NCC is an agency of the Federal Government, the purported directive is one more design by the government to cast a more financial burden on the already depressed citizenry.

”The Communications Service Tax Bill, which proposes to impose a monthly Communication Service Tax of nine per cent on all electronic communication services, which include voice calls; SMS; MMS and data usage is still before the National Assembly.

”There has been a lot of hue and cry against the bill by the citizens. The NCC directive is, therefore, nothing but a huge effort aimed at enforcing the obnoxious provisions of the bill through the back door.
”The inimical directive, if implemented has grave and far-reaching consequences as the gains of telecommunication revolution we have made so far will be eroded.”
According to him, the policy desire to attain 30 percent broadband penetration by 2018 will no longer be attainable, with a high prospect of rolling back the current 13 per cent broadband access via mobile.
He said that those businesses that relied on data and internet connectivity to offer their services would go underground; their promoters would return to the labour market, thereby compounding the unemployment situation in the country.
Ogunbanjo said that since the data tariff increment was just a prelude (testing the water) to voice calls tariff increment, telecommunications services would now be limited to the rich.
”And the poor, who constitute about 90 percent of the population, will be denied access. This is a retreat to pre -2001 era.
”Within the current suffocating economic situation in the country where prices of goods and services go up every day and thereby undermining the people standard of living, the directive is just a mirror of an inconsiderate policy maker.

”NCC did not do due-diligence and did not carry out any consultation whatsoever, through any of their consumer’s engagement platforms, like the NCC Telecoms Consumer-Parliament, the NCC Consumer Outreach-Programme and the NCC Consumer Town Hall-Meeting before this insensitive anti-consumer,” he said.

According to him, data or internet availability means more youths engagements because they use data to develop applications and build software, adding that ”With what the NCC has done, these young minds, who develop apps will be slowed down and be limited.

Nigerians React to Senate Order

Prof John Ebhomien, a strategic economist and former Consultant to the United Nations Office of Project Services, In his reaction, while applauding the Senate for its order stopping the hike, maintained that the NCC action which made the service providers to plan a price hike of their services was ill-conceived and wrong when the nation is in a recession.

Prof. Ebhomien, an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain in Lagos, said: “The government should come up with a good policy which will help the people at this challenging period. The service providers and the NCC should not sabotage the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari to give the people a good life.
“Now, people hardly eat three square meals a day. Many people are struggling to eke out a  living. The National Assembly should come down heavily on the NCC and the service providers. The Senate should ensure that the directive is carried out. The lawmakers should also carry out a serious oversight of the NCC and the service providers andf the communications sector to ensure that the people are given the services they are paying for. Nigerians should give kudos to the Senate for acting on time to stop this increase, which is unnecessary, wicked and inhuman at this time of recession.”

Barrister Nnaemeka Iheonu, a member of the Lagos Court of Arbitration and the International Bar Association (IBA), also maintained that the hike in data tariff by the service providers at this recession period was unnecessary and uncalled for.

NCC, Service providers cave In to Senate order

Following the Senate order, the NCC has suspended its plan to increase data tariff on all telecommunication networks with effect from tomorrow December 1. Tony Ojobo NCC’s Director, Public Affairs, in a statement on Wednesday said the suspension is to allow for further consultation by all stakeholders.

He said|: “Following the concerns that visited the directive to introduce price floor for data segment of the telecommunications sector beginning from December 1, 2016, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has suspended any further action in that direction. The decision to suspend this directive was taken after due consultation with industry stakeholders and the general complaints by Consumers across the country.

“The Commission has weighed all of this and consequently asked all operators to maintain the status quo until the conclusion of study to determine retail prices for broadband and data services in Nigeria.”

Speaking shortly after the verdict, Ashafa  said “I am absolutely in support of the resolution reached on the floor of the Senate today to the effect that the NCC should halt any such planned increase in data tariffs. It is a welcome decision” he said/

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