The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has proposed plans to increase the country’s broadband penetration by 14 percent from the initial 6 percent where it stands now.

According to the country’s Minister of Communications Technology, Omobola Johnson, the government has already set up a committee on broadband, with a mandate to achieve 20 percent broadband penetration by 2017.

The Minister explained that one of the difficulties faced in the past on broadband penetration was  the excess demand from several government agencies over right of way in laying fibre cables.

“The situation where over seven Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government are demanding between N500 million to N1 billion from a single operator to grant permit for right of way to lay fibre optic cables, speaks volume of the imminent danger that such action could generate. What it means is that government is simply shooting itself on the foot, because such demands have over the years, stifle the growth of broadband in the country,” she said.

Omobola who spoke in Lagos at the weekend at a broadband forum organised by BusinessDay Conferences in conjunction with the Nigerian Communications Commission however called on the government to put more of its (government) services online to increase broadband demands across the country. In doing this, the government will partner more with the private sector to further boost broadband penetration in the country.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of MainOne Cable Company, Funke Opeke while speaking on the theme: ‘Operational Challenges: Critical Success ; said to achieve the 20 percent growth in broadband penetration, the government must address the issue of pricing and demand.

She posits that some of the main ingredients that could enhance broadband penetration in the country include: skills acquisition among youths, affordability and availability of broadband, right broadband policies as well as the development of broadband content.

If the right broadband policy is put in place, it would increase foreign investment, she said.

In a related development, the commission is planning to release a new interconnect guidelines by 2013 to address the negative effect of accumulated interconnection bills on telecommunications operations, which has reached over N20 billion  () over a period of 11 years.

The new guideline will facilitate the process of getting quick approval from NCC to disconnect operators that are heavily indebted to interconnect billings, especially those that are reluctant to settle such bills.

“We have since discovered that getting approval from NCC by the telecoms operators to disconnect other operators that are owing them on interconnect billings, takes a long period of between six months and one year and we are saying that this is not good enough because most operators are taking undue advantage of it and they are holding on to creditors money and depriving the creditors of the opportunity to better utilise their money for network expansion, which they all needed to remain relevant in business.  So we are looking at reducing the time period in getting approval from NCC, as well as amending the process of getting the approval in order to disconnect operators that are heavily indebted, and all these will be spelt out in the new guidelines that will be released in January 2013,” Director, Legal and Regulatory Services at NCC, Mrs. Josephine Amuwa said.


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