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Presidency urges states on RoW for broadband deployment

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Broad band connection


•Telecoms Association plans MoU with states on charges
•Benue, Ogun, Lagos charge N2, 500, N4, 000, N750 per Linear Meter respectively

The Presidency has urged state governments to be futuristic by looking at the long term benefits of enabling the deployment of broadband infrastructure in their respective states. The Presidency said that broadband infrastructure is crucial to the Federal Government’s plan for the enthronement of a digital economy.

The Special Assistant to the President on Technology and Innovation, Ife Adebayo, on Monday during a live television programme, said successful broadband deployment is tied to affordable Right of Way (RoW).

Adebayo said the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, in partnership with the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, has been making serious efforts targeted at RoW charges reduction by states.

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According to him, these efforts are gradually helping as some states have reduced the charges, while some have removed the cost entirely.

However, he said there are still states, which are yet to key into the new plan for RoW charges reduction.

“On the issue of broadband connectivity across the states, which is tied to RoW, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, has actually been driving this, in partnership with the Vice President. Of course, there is a National Broadband Plan, which gives the right to build relevant infrastructure across the states. The Vice President as the Chairman of National Economic Council, which has all the governors has members, has been driving engagement with states that charge huge cost upfront on RoW for broadband infrastructure, which may give you some money in the interim, but will not help the overall economy of the state on the long term. This is because the infrastructure companies have initial cost, which would then be passed to end users. Exorbitant RoW charges also reduce the speed at which they can operate,” he stated.

According to him, the country is not where it should be, “because several other states are not onboard yet. So, until every state comes to term on this, that is when this can become a national development.”

On the partnership between the Federal Government and Microsoft, targeted at training about five million Nigerians, Adebayo disclosed that training of five million Nigerians will run over a five year period.

He said the beauty of technology has been that is available across all sectors of the economy. “So, if we are able to build the technology infrastructure, which is one of the pillars that this partnership is all about, deepen connectivity, improve skills, we can further drive the economy.”

Adebayo said Microsoft, with new technology, the Airband, which uses TV Whitespaces to provide connectivity in underserved and difficult to reach areas, will deploy the technology in partnership with the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy over the next few months. He said this would enable them identify communities across the six geo-political zones for the deployment of these infrastructure.

“These technologies will not just be deployed; there will be social services on the technology. What you will find is that over the next few months when these communities are identified and these techs are deployed, services around eHealth, and other community services such as digitization of records, such as building of local data bases, and exploring the roles technology can play in education and its advancement, all these will be layered on the connectivity that will be provided within theses communities.”

MEANWHILE, The Guardian gathered that the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) is looking at signing a Memorandum of Understanding with states to further bring down RoW charges.

As at April, 29 states were yet to implement the RoW agreement, a situation that is slowing down the pace of broadband deployment and penetration in the country. This is over one year after the 36 state governors agreed to implement the unified rate of N145 per linear metre fee.

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While the likes of Ekiti, Edo, Imo, Kaduna, Plateau and Anambra states have either slashed or removed the charges outrightly, findings showed that some states still charge as much as N5000 per linear meter for RoW. For instance, while Lagos charges N750 per linear meter, Ogun levies operators N4000, and Benue N2500.

The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, has continued to seek audience with the state governors on the need to reduce RoW charges.

Danbatta went as far as tabling the matter before the National Assembly, pressing for a legislation that will categorise telecoms infrastructure as critical national infrastructure across the country.

Pantami had also led NCC to meet with Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) to deliberate on RoW issue, where he reminded the governors of the agreement they reached with the National Executive Council in 2013, to slash RoW charges to a flat rate of N145 per linear metre, for national development and in the interest of the country.

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