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Kenya may regulate Internet pricing

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 24 – In what is probably an indication that the government will regulate Internet prices, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has said that the ongoing call charges study will also contain guidelines on connectivity charges.

CCK Director General Charles Njoroge told reporters on Tuesday that as much as the government would want market forces to determine the Internet charges, the bandwidth costs are still out of reach for many Kenyans.

“We believe Internet costs are not coming down as fast as possible and we will be very keen to follow and ensure that it is accessible and the pricing in the market is right,” he said.

However he made it clear that this was being implemented as a last resort.

“We would not like to do price control. However if there are issues of prices that are not right, there are always interventions,” he added.

Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo kicked off the debate in September when he issued an ultimatum to the Internet Service Providers to bring down the prices in 30 days failure to which the CCK would be forced to regulate the charges.

The threat raised a hue and cry from the operators who argued that they were unable to cut the prices abruptly as many were still relying on the expensive satellite capacity for back up.

However earlier this month, Dr Ndemo expressed satisfaction with the current connectivity prices saying they had reduced to at least Sh15,000 per megabyte.

“I must say that I’m happy. The market forces are forcing them down so I’m not very disappointed… I’m just happy that my dreams were realised within the period that I promised,” he had told Capital Business and further expressed optimism that the prices would come down further.

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The guidelines from a study which was commissioned to review the interconnection calls charges are expected to be implemented in March 2010 and it remains to be seen whether the government will follow through and enforce them.

Despite the Internet price standoff  however, the PS said he expected Internet penetration in the country to rise bolstered by the operationalisation of the fibre optic cables that have more than 2.48 Terabits per second.

At a CCK Stakeholders Consultative Forum on ICT regulation, Dr Ndemo said the broadband capacity was huge and able to accommodate much more traffic.

“Internet usage is bound to rise above the current 3.6 million as Kenyans enjoy better speeds and higher data traffic,” he said through the ministry’ Deputy Secretary of Administration Henry Mung’asia.

He however acknowledged that this development would bring with it challenges such as cyber security due to the transformation of media and content landscape.

The PS however assured that they were seeking proposals on how to improve regulations contained in the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Act of 2009 to address such issues and ensure that the sector, which contributed about Sh12billion to the GDP, continues to make positive contribution to the growth of the economy.

The Act is expected to be enacted in January 2010 with the aim of helping to leapfrog the country into the digital era.

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