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General News of Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Source: myjoyonline

Telecoms is no Tobacco industry; be lenient with us - Sakyi-Addo

Chief Executive officer of the Telecoms Chamber Kwaku Sakyi-Addo is unhappy with threats by the Communications Minister to suspend the licenses of telecom companies which fail to pay fines imposed on them by the National Communications Authority.

The regulatory body imposed a total fine of ¢1.2 billion on five of the telecom operators in the country for providing poor quality services to their clients.

Weeks after the imposition, only Tigo was reported by the Daily Graphic to have completed payment. MTN and Airtel had paid part with Vodafone and Expresso yet to make any payment.

Communications Minister Haruna Iddrisu at a Consumer Forum in Tamale described the delay by the companies in paying the penalties as a show of disrespect to consumers and to the regulatory body.

He directed the companies to pay up in 24 hours or risk losing their licenses.

The penalty and subsequent threat to suspend the licenses of the operators appear not to have gone down well with the Chief Executive of the Telecoms Chamber.

At a ceremony to officially launch the telecoms chamber, its CEO, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo minced no words in his appeal to the regulator and the sector minister to tread cautiously in taking punitive measures against the operators.

He argued the operators, sometimes through no fault of theirs, face serious challenges in deploying infrastructure that is expected to improve the quality of services.

He found it rather worrying that, in spite of those challenges coupled with a commitment by the operators to improve quality by deploying its infrastructure, the regulatory body would go ahead and slap punitive sums on the operators.

“…One of the longest running problems that is hurting telecoms companies are the cost and hurdles in deploying infrastructure and the complete absence of predictability in how our local authority determine business operating permits when it comes to mobile phone company.

“Do we want the mobile phone services in our communities or not. Do we want improvement in the quality of service or not. How do you expand broadband internet access and enhance quality if we obstruct the very infrastructure that delivers it.

“If we dissuade and hurt and punish the companies that want to deploy them, how? This is not a tobacco industry. Don’t we realize that this industry is a direct and visible enabler of economic and social activity and outcomes?

He said if the “strange” policy being implemented by the regulator makes sense then it should be applied across board - to the water sector as well.

Mr. Addo also took exception to the 20 per cent import duty on SIM cards based on a 2010 copy right legislation which claims the phone chip is a device for the storage of copyright materials, much in the same category as CD roms and , memory cards.

“…But your chip is not even capable of storing your own contacts. Who stores music or downloads a book on onto SIM cards,” he quizzed.

“Regulatory policy should be based on sound and efficient legal system that enables timely contract enforcement, adequate appeal processes and effective implementation,” he urged.

But the Communications Minister who was also present at the ceremony was unmoved by the passionate appeal by the Telecom Chamber’s CEO.

Whilst applauding the contribution by the operators in the infrastructure development in the country Haruna Iddrisu maintained the need for consumers to get quality service is non-negotiable.

“Yes you feed the NCA. They are building the HQ with funding from telecoms…. Consumers also feed you with funding. And consumers also demand that they want better quality of service. Between you and the consumer government would yield to the consumer. It is to them that we owe service to.”

He said telecoms today is no luxury but an essential duty and the operators are enshrined to provide quality services.

He repeated his threat to the operators to pay up the fines imposed on them or have their licenses suspended.

The chairman of the occasion Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panyin called for more collaboration between the two institutions, and also for amicable resolution of differences.