Telkom seeks State compensation

December 7, 2010

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 7 – Telkom Kenya now says it wants the government through the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) to pay a compensation fee over increased cases of cable vandalism in the country.

The operator said on Tuesday that the CCK should reimburse it one percent of total revenue it pays to the Universal Service Fund to cover costs incurred in repairing its cut fiber network.

Telkom Kenya Chief Executive Officer Mikael Ghossein said from January to November it has experienced 342 cable cuts leading him to believe it was sabotage.

“We are fed up with this kind of vandalism,” a livid Mr Ghossein told journalists following three cable cuts in Nairobi and Mombasa grinding operations of two business processing outsourcing, a mobile operator carrier and a hospital to a halt.

Mr Ghossein said making the regulator compensate operators on lost revenue was one way of ensuring relevant authorities curb the vice.

“We cannot support our business if we do not have the support. When I send my technician who pays for this, when I lose customers, who pays for this?” he wondered.

Fibre cuts have intensified in the country since the cables were laid in the country with the government indicating it had reached crisis level.

“The cut of these cables we have now fully established is done in a very systematic way to disable certain organisations from carrying out their business fully,” Ministry of Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo has said in the past.

The ministry is currently working with the Attorney General’s office to amend the law governing cable vandalism to the Anti-Corruption and Economics Crimes Act.

The Act provides for stiffer penalties including life imprisonment and a Sh1 million fine for offenders. 

He said it was particularly worrying that the majority of cuts affected the fibre optic and copper cables, which cannot be reused after they are cut.

“Kenya today is an exporter of copper, but where are the mines? The fibre optic cable is of no use when it is cut. This therefore points at malicious damage to the communications infrastructure, and we believe that this could be a scheme orchestrated by some of our competitors”, he said.

The Telkom Chief said it would be hard for the country to expect Internet costs to come down in the near future if operators were constantly experiencing down time.

“Why should I support the cost of vandalism and get nothing for it. If they (CCK) are serious about increasing internet penetration, then they should do something,” Mr Ghossein said.

The operator currently spends close to Sh25 million monthly hiring guards to secure its infrastructure. It however plans to educate the local community on the importance of the cable and use them to secure the infrastructure.

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