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Broadband: ALTON seeks states’ cooperation in delivery of last mile infrastructure

The Association of Licenced Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), has joined the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in calling on state governments’ to cooperate with several understandings lined up by the regulator in achieving seamless delivery of broadband infrastructure nationwide.

In a telephone interview with the Executive Secretary of ALTON, Mr. Gbolahon Awonuga, he said NCC has been trying its best in convincing states’ authorities on the importance of giving easy access to Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) in terms of Right of Way (RoW) charges and associated multiple taxation.

He said “What has been delaying the targeted rollout of infrastructures that will drive broadband have been a number of factors”.

“Top in the list of challenges frustrating the speed of broadband delivery across the federation includes the fact that some states’ government still see telecoms investors as money bags and therefore try to overcharge them in every little thing both on issues that can be taxed and those that can be left untaxed.

“ALTON has been having series of meetings with the NCC and we have made our submissions on the best way out. The NCC is now harmonizing the understanding for onward transmission to states government for adoption so that licenced InfraCos can begin to provide infrastructure meant to drive the last mile which has been the major issue.

Before now, many Nigerians who use data on a daily basis for their businesses and personal activities have been calling on the telecoms regulator to shift emphasis from repeatedly explaining how use of broadband will change narratives of daily businesses and life to deepening broadband availability and affordability.

Report from a recent Vox Pop conducted by Business Hilights Economic Research Team (BHERT) in three Nigerian cities of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt showed that about 95 per cent respondents agree that they have hard enough explanations on how broadband will improve their businesses and life, but  they are yet to feel the availability and affordability.

Only about five per cent say they still need more details on how internet will assist them in their daily business.

Further investigations on the state of broadband delivery in line with the five-year national broadband plan for Nigeria showed that there seems to be a deep drop in related investment by networks.

However, experts are divided on the activities of the regulator, NCC in fast tracking policy implementation of the timetable driving the process after all.

For example, since the beginning of the year, the regulator had been assuring of conducting bids for Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) in remaining zones of the country even as the two zones whose winners have emerged previously are having serious logistics issues in depoloying their infrastructures.

Business Hilights recalls that Lagos and North Central zones InfraCos had been named, but they are yet to effectively do their business of broadband infrastructure delivery even within the given timeframe.

The InfraCos at several forums have cited challenges in the Right of Way (RoW), multiple taxation and poor access to forex.

It was not clear if the listed challenges by existing InfraCos are part of the reasons considered by the regulator for not maintaining its set timetable for conducting bids for InfraCos in the remaining zones as time continue to get wasted after all.

It would be recalled that since Open Access Model (OAM) that was designed to be driven by InfraCos was chosen as the preferred broadband vehicle during the tenure of the immediate past chief executive of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah.

More than two year after, industry observers liken progress rate on broadband delivery to Snail speed.

However, recently in Lagos, the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive of the NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta seemed to have continued with explanations on merits of ubiquitous broadband spread across the country, saying it will boost socio-economic development and growth in the country.

Though he was technically silent on how affordability and accessibility are growing, he was quick to assure Nigerians of government’s efforts to surpass the 30 per cent broadband penetration target by 2018.

According to him, “Broadband has become a key priority of the 21st Century, and its life-changing capability for enabling socio-economic growth makes it an essential tool for empowering people, creating an environment that nurtures technology and service innovations, which triggers positive change in general business processes”.