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Uproar forces Kenya to revise phone rules

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 12 – The government has bowed to pressure and pledged to amend the recently published information and communications regulations after protests from leading mobile service provider Safaricom.

The rules, published by Information Minister Samuel Poghisio last month elicited mixed reactions from the various industry players. The minister had said the rules were meant to curb market dominance by one player.

Mr Poghisio however said on Wednesday that there was need to redefine certain clauses in the new regulations in an effort to bridge consensus among players.

“It is a matter of making it clearer so that nobody feels victimised and we would never be responsible in this ministry, for causing any player to feel like the laws are made to disadvantage them,” he said.

Stakeholders in the industry have been at loggerheads over the new regulations since they were published.

Zain Kenya, Telkom Kenya and Essar have jointly endorsed the new regulations arguing they would help them grow their businesses in Kenya. However, market leader Safaricom has rejected them saying it would gravely curtail its chances to grow.

Among the regulations published include dispute resolution, tariff regulations and compliance monitoring, inspection and enforcement regulations.

The others are Fair Competition and Equality of Treatment and Interconnection and Provision of Fixed Links, Access and Facilities regulations.

Mr Poghisio said the amendments would focus on clarifying the criteria for defining a dominant licensee, defining the term abuse of dominance and the different market segmentations in the telecoms industry.

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“These are very new regulations and we have done them not because we have noticed abuse but for the prosperity of the industry,” he said.

The minister maintained the laws were not out to punish companies but provide a level playing ground for firms to operate in.

“Being dominant is no crime but abusing that dominance is a crime and those are some things we are going to define and lay out the consequences for breaching them,” he said.

He however said the laws would remain in place before the review is enacted.

Information Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo said the review of the regulations could take up to one month to complete before being gazzetted.

The Communications Commission of Kenya is expected to conduct a study to determine dominant players in different market segments that should be ready by the end of the review.

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