Various stakeholders from the nation’s Information and Communications technology industry, last week in Lagos advocated for a strong will from government at all levels that will help expand broadband connectivity to the hither lands.
The stakeholders, who made the advocacy at the Nigeria Information Technology Reporters’ Association (NITRA)’s Fourth Quarterly Seminar/Induction, argue that part of the reasons Nigeria is yet to get last mile broadband access, is largely to hurdles placed by some state governments.
Making his remark, Chairman of NITRA, Mr. Emma Okonji, noted that the theme of the forum ‘Achieving Last-mile Connectivity Through Affordable Broadband’, was deliberately chosen as a result of the fact that broadband is majorly settled in the urban areas, leaving a great number of Nigerians in the rural areas unconnected.
“Today, we are discussing Last-mile Connectivity Through Affordable Broadband. This is because we are mindful of the importance of broadband infrastructure as an enabler for economic and social growth in the digital economy,” he posited.
He added that despite the announcement by the regulator that Nigeria has achieved its 30 percent broadband target, the citizens are still yearning for ubiquitous and affordable broadband to further drive internet connectivity at the speed of light.
Meanwhile, a representative of the Association of Licensed Telecom Operator of Nigeria (ALTON), Engr. Aremu Olajide, disclosed that many Information and Communications Technology companies are closing down business owing to unfriendly environment and enormous challenges, ostensibly created by some state government to rip off telecom companies.
For instance, Olajide, who is the Technical Committee Chairman at ALTON cited the case of Kogi State that shut down over 150 telecom sites last month. He argues that the actions of government like these will continue to put off investors and ultimately serves as a drawback to last mile broadband connectivity.
“We’re operating in a very hostile environment, where several sanctions from the government are placed on telecom companies and thereby eroding the gains of the industry,” Olajide, who served as the Chairman of the forum disclosed.
He noted that the country’s telecom regulator is regularly under pressure as a result of these actions by some state governments, explaining that the focus of some state governments and agencies is multiple regulation and taxation that are levied on telcos.
Also speaking, the Nigerian Communications Commission assured Nigerians that it will continue to ensure the development of basic voice and data communications in Nigeria. It said providing ubiquitous, affordable access to communications services for all citizenry and most critically, to ensure the transformation and regeneration of the national space and economy in all its facets, using the medium of telecommunications remain its cardinal focus.
Dr. Henry Nkemadu, Deputy Director and Head, Special Intervention Project at NCC, who represented the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, admitted that the theme of the forum ‘Achieving Last-mile Connectivity Through Affordable Broadband’, is actually in line with the Commission’s drive to facilitate universal access to ICT services by providing enabling regulatory interventions that will stimulate competition among the industry players.
“We are committed to achieving the Last Mile Connectivity in Nigeria because we know there is still a proportion of the population that are underserved or unserved with universal access to mobile and the Internet,” he admitted.
Part of the effort the Commission is making for last mile connectivity is the implementation of the National Broadband Plan Initiatives, which the Commission believes will lead to pervasive infrastructure support.
Nkemadu said the NCC has introduced authorization for infrastructure companies (Open Access Model) for the entire six geopolitical zones of the nation which is targeted at delivering affordable internet services to last mile end users, especially those at the rural areas.