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Monday, August 12, 2019

Data war looms: ALTON petitions NCC over NITDA’s attempt to regulate telecom – ITREALMS

The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has petitioned the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) over the attempt by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to regulate communication, reports ITREALMS.

ALTON in a two-page letter dated July 30, 2019 and signed by its chairman, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, stated they were heavily concerned by the recent enactment of regulations, frameworks and guidelines by NITDA which border on communications matters, which for them is within the regulatory purview of NCC.

A copy of the letter sighted by ITREALMS, is entitled “Introduction of Legal Instruments by NITDA with attendant impact on the operations of entities regulated by the Nigerian Communications Commission, hence they are seeking for guidance.

ALTON drew attention specifically to some subsidiary legislations and frameworks by NITDA which include the “Framework and Guidelines for Public Internet Access (PIA) 2019; Framework for Data Centre Facilities; and Nigeria Data Protection Regulation 2019.

On the Framework and Guidelines for Public Internet Access (PIA) 2019, ALTON said that the supposed sets of rules negates the powers of Commission.

They noted that the framework empowers NITDA to license a Public Internet Access Provider (PIAP) which technically is a provider of data services and prescribes minimum quality of service for such providers. The key concern is that NITDA appears to be assuming the role of a parallel regulator for data services.

On Framework for Data Centre Facilities, ALTON decried that NITDA wrote to some of its members in July 2019 stating it has commenced registration of Data Centre facilities in Nigeria and requested they initiate the registration of their facilities with NITDA.

According to NITDA, the registration is in furtherance of Presidential Executive Orders 003 and 005 on local content development.

However, ALTON pointed out that a careful review of the Orders does not reveal anything specific to the operation of data centres.

Additionally, ALTON insisted that the promotion of local content in the industry which is the bedrock of NITDA’s position is not the agency’s exclusive preserve, “as the Commission is also well positioned to address same for the communications industry.”

With regards to Nigeria Data Protection Regulation 2019, ALTON said it contained some far-reaching provisions on personal data which includes communications identifiers, such as the Internet Protocol (IP) address, International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI).

Further, ALTON lamented that NITDA's letter sought the Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) and Personal Identifiable Information, among others, as well as the procedure for procuring consent from customers and the transfer of data outside of Nigeria.

"By implication, it will appear that NITDA has assumed the role of a Data Protection Agency in Nigeria and its Regulation overrides the Commission’s existing provision on data processing in the industry," ALTON bemoaned.

The foregoing, ALTON emphasized, brought to light the dreaded multiple regulation which has been a reoccurring challenge for the industry.

"It is our view that the current issue with NITDA requires urgent intervention by the Commission to safeguard the interest of market players and preserve the powers of the Commission.

Accordingly, ALTON said that in a bid to avoid a situation where members are caught in the crossfire of multiple regulation, they requested the Commission’s guidance on how to proceed with the NITDA on the aforementioned Frameworks and Regulation.

"This guidance will provide the much-needed clarity for the industry moving forward," Adebayo submitted.

Remmy Nweke/DoP

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