Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Broadband penetration: Nwokolo advocates direct import clearance


THE regulatory officer at Zain Nigeria, Mr. Osondu Nwokolo, has advocated for direct import clearance of broadband devices and equipments as the nation warms up for the broadband boom before the end of 2010.

He also solicited the inclusion of ducts and a declaration in the Nigerian Communications Act that makes it mandatory for States to protect these ‘critical infrastructure’ in their domains, whenever the review comes up anytime soon.

Speaking at the 2010 Broadband summit organized by e-Business Life in Lagos, Mr. Nwokolo, who dwelt on ‘Policy and Regulatory Imperatives for Optimal Broadband Deployment in Nigeria’ noted with dismay some of the challenges affecting telecommunications operators in the country, warning that if these challenges are not remedied, they may form a ‘Berlin’ wall for the much anticipated broadband boom before the end of this year.

Nwokolo said at the forum presided over by the president of Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem that frequent fibre outages due to cuts caused by road construction and vandalization, has become top in obstruction of telecom services of late.

In addition, he said that delays or denial of right of way (RoW) for fibre deployment is another hiccup as well as multiplicity of regulatory authorities in the three tiers of government, namely Federal, State and Local government.

This, he said, has resulted in a confused operational environment, which is inimical to investment, highlighting the fact that some restiveness in communities due to lack of employment, has made roll-out a hazardous attempt in some parts of the country.

He underscored lack of ascertainable taxation regime, including import duties, inadequate power, and import clearance delays to name a few.

He, however, went further to suggest some remedies if the broadband boom must be a success, saying that by ensuring the inclusion of ducts in all new roads, and a declaration of telecommunications infrastructure as ‘critical infrastructure’ that requires government protection, would go a long way in encouraging investors in this regard.

Nwokolo equally, called for the establishment of clear acceptable regime for issuance of right of way (RoW), which he believes would see to possible reduction of attractable fees of today.

He also called for regulatory harmonization among federal government authorities.

“Address overlap of regulatory authority, either through legislation, policy statement or via memorandum of understanding,” he said, citing an example with the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), NCC, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) as well as the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

As said by him, an accelerated power reform, allocating of diesel directly to operators, provision of incentives for own power generation, would pave the way for improved quality of service.

Harmonize tax laws, including empowering Joint Tax Board via specific legislation, Nwokolo pointed out is crucial for the anticipated boom to take root effectively, while creating an enablement that would prioritise import clearance for broadband related equipment cannot be over-emphasised.

He maintained that most emerging markets will continue to lag behind in global competitiveness unless broadband internet connectivity is given a priority attention in the scheme of things including Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment and infrastructure.

In her presentation, the chief executive of MainOne, one of the submarine cable companies in the country, Ms Funke Opeke, was optimistic that MainOne cable would land as planned in June and she does not see anything wrong in having several submarine cables apart from hers and Glo-1 which reportedly landed in September 2009.

According to her, the future looks bright with the landing of these cables, especially MainOne, which is expected to crash the cost of Internet access in the country and enthrone improved quality in the sector.

Chief executive, e-Business Life, Mrs. Ufuoma ‘Daro said the summit was spurred by predictions of 2009 by experts and her entity thought it wise to began the year with the summit so as to equip stakeholders with relevant information in order to make informed decisions.


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