Government is in the process of appointing an Interconnect Clearing House (ICH) operator to connect calls from one network to the other on behalf of the telecommunications service providers. This is nothing but connivance between government and its cronies posing as some Interconnect Clearing House company to make undeserved money from subscribers and users of telecommunications services.
What are the issues?
The Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (Act 775) requires every telecommunications service provider to interconnect with every other telecommunications service provider. This is to ensure that subscribers of one network can communicate easily and seamlessly with subscribers of other networks.
In Ghana, all telecommunications service providers have invested in the necessary infrastructure and complied with their interconnectivity obligations. Which is why we easily call from one network to another as easily as we call subscribers within the same network. Interconnectivity between different networks in Ghana is excellent. The National Telecommunications Authority, the industry regulator, has therefore not had reason to sanction any service provide for failure to interconnect.
Then out of the blue, government announces that it intends to appoint an ICH operator to connect calls from each network to the other at a price to be quoted by the operator. Most disturbingly, government says it would make it mandatory for each telecommunications service provider to subscribe to the commercial interconnect services of the ICH operator.
The Wireless Applications Services Providers and the Internet Service Providers are wholly Ghanaian-owned operators in the telecommunications industry. They have said earnestly that they have already invested in interconnect arrangements and don't need any ICH. At a meeting with the Parliamentary Select Committee on Communications on 13th December 2014, they were clear that if they were compelled to subscribe to the commercial services of this ICH, many of them could go out of business.
As for the bigger multinational telecommunications companies, their only point is that if government went ahead and imposed this unnecessary ICH, they would have no choice but to pass the consequential cost on to subscribers and users of their services.
The first sign that government has wrong motives in introducing this ICH is the unreasonable rush to set it up:
i. On 26th November 2014, government published literature about the ICH on the internet claiming it was the beginning of public education and consultation in which they were looking to receive comments and inputs from all Ghanaians. Within ten (10) working days, government claimed it had finished doing the media and public education and had received millions of comments from the general public.
ii. Government further claims that within five (5) working days beginning from 19th November 2014, it reviewed and incorporated into its work the millions of comments.
iii. On 26th November 2014, government invited applications for license to operate the said ICH. Deadline for applications was within just eleven (11) working days.
iv. Government is now set to announce the chosen ICH operator by Friday, the 7th February 2015.
Now, why this unhealthy haste? Government should show us what form the public education took and in which media the publicity was done. Why the rush to set up the ICH as though there was some urgent need for it? Why the strange urgency? This is obviously a naive attempt to quietly sneak the ICH into the telecommunications industry.
But perhaps the strangest of all government conduct is the attempt to justify the ICH by presenting it as an answer to sim box fraud. Not only is this deceitful, it is also laughable. Sim box fraud is the practice of routing international calls through the internet in order to bypass the legitimate route for international calls. This is done criminally to avoid taxes. There is nothing about an ICH that can check this bypassing, and government knows this. This justification is most deceitful and unfortunate!
Government should back off this Interconnect Clearing House project. It can serve no honest purpose. The greed of people in government who seek to pocket illegitimate money should not be permitted to roll back the gains of Ghana's telecommunications industry. In the end, this greed will translate into higher call rates and data usage rates for ordinary Ghanaians and Ghanaian businesses.
MP, Obuasi West Constituency
Deputy Ranking - Communications Select Committee of Parliament
|Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not reflect those of Peacefmonline.com. Peacefmonline.com accepts no responsibility legal or otherwise for their accuracy of content. Please report any inappropriate content to us, and we will evaluate it as a matter of priority.|