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NATCOMS chides NCC over data tariff hike as Etisalat joins MTN to issue notice

More experts and interest groups have continued to raise objection to the recent notice by both MTN and Etisalat to subscribers bordering on intent to jerk up tariff of dtata services by December 1, 2016.

In a communiqué after its emergency meeting on the matter Tuesday, NATCOMS decried the planned increment, saying the development will draw Nigeria back on its target of hitting 30 per cent broadband penetration by 2018 and create a shocker on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) living on data usage.

High point of the group’s argument is the fact that contrary to the Nigerian Communications Commission’s (NCC) character of carrying subscribers around in issues, “NCC did not do due-diligence and did not carry out any consultation whatsoever, through any of their CONSUMER ENGAGEMENT PLATFORMS, like (a) The NCC Telecoms Consumer Parliament – for Urban Centres; (b) The NCC Consumer Outreach Programme – for Sub-Urban Centres; (c) The NCC Consumer Town Hall Meeting – for Rural Areas, before this insensitive anti-consumer move”.

According to the group, “The percentage of the increment is not disclosed yet but may be doubled”.

“We view the directive as insensitive, callous, and diabolical. Since N.C.C is an agency of the Federal Government, the purported directive is one more design by the Government to cast more financial burden on the already depressed citizenry.

“The Communications Service Tax Bill which proposes to impose a monthly Communication Service Tax of 9  on all electronic communication services: (a) Voice calls; (b) SMS; (c) MMS; and (d) Data usage is still before the National Assembly.

“There has been a lot of hue and cry against the Bill by the citizens. The N.C.C. directive, is therefore, nothing but a huge effort aimed at enforcing the obnoxious provisions of the Bill through the back door.

The communiqué further argued that “The inimical directive, if implemented, has grave and far reaching consequences including rolling back gains made so far, rolling back the current 13 per cent broadband access via mobile and those doing e-businesses and small scale businesses that rely on Data and Internet connectivity to offer their services, will go underground and their promoters returning to the labour market and thereby compounding the unemployment situation in the country.

Other impacts coming from the move include that telecommunication services will now be limited to the rich, and the poor, who constitute about 90 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.

“MTN and ETISALAT have already sent out millions of text messages to its Subscribers informing them of the NCC Data increase directive.

“Data / Internet availability means more youth engagements, because they use data to develop apps and build software. With what the NCC has done, these young minds, who develop apps will be slowed down and limited.

“Data / Internet Service is the “PETROL” of all electronic driven businesses, which means that the cost of doing business will also increase.

“The directive is ill-advised, illegal and parades all features of economic adversity and should be withdrawn forthwith,” NATCOMS concluded without any warning for possible mass action for redress.