Nigerian regulator dispels fears of ‘clampdown’ on WhatsApp, Facebook, others

Internet

Prof Umaru Danbata, the nation’s telecoms regulatory chief today said that fears that Nigeria plans to regulate activities of social media platforms like BBM, WeChat, WhatsApp, Facebook and others “are misplaced.”

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) recently published a 23 page document, ‘’An Overview of Provision of Over-The-Top (OTT) Services“, underscoring the growing influence of the OTT services on the operation of traditional mobile telephone networks.

‘’Fears are being expressed that the NCC wants to start regulating OTT services. These fears are misplaced. What the NCC paper has done is to elevate the value and quality of discourse on the issue’’, the NCC boss says.

The key issue came under the spotlight today at the 4th edition of the Lagos Social Media Week, an event that brought together thought leaders, key stakeholders and the public in Lagos to explore issues that are important for the modern world.

NCC reckons that OTT players, who deliver audio, video and other media content over the Internet without the involvement of a multiple-system operator in the control or distribution of the content. The OTT services include Internet Protocol (IP) telephony, live streaming and other social media applications.

Danbata, represented by Mr Tony Ojobo, Director Public Affair at NCC cited that at the ITU Global Symposium for regulators, which held last year in Gabon, some operators expressed concerned about the activities of OTT operators and how they affect baseline returns in the country.

According to NCC, “a particular operator suggested that OTT players are eating the operators’ ‘’lunch’’ since they are not regulated and have no investment to increase their cost base.’’

‘’In summary report of the symposium, Analysys Mason, an analysis and advisory services on the telecommunications, media and technology market counselled that operators and regulators alike should consider carefully before coming to any conclusion on whether OTT players should be regulated or whether existing regulations should be withdrawn’’, according to the NCC boos.

While acknowledging the fears of traditional telecom service providers that traditional telephony and SMS revenues are under threats from newer IP based alternatives like Whatsapp, Skype, Viber, NCC says the document recommended that the Nigerian regulator should encourage local network providers to innovate and explore more efficient business models that would enable them compete favorably with OTT service providers.

” The regulators objective is to catalyze additional opportunities offered by OTT services to the benefit of the consumers and to support competition while avoiding the OTT-related risks in the areas of security and data protection’’, Danbatta adds.

Commenting on the impact of new media on the Cybercrime Act, the NCC top executive and image maker Ojobo says that it has become imperative for practitioners in the new media space to familiarize themselves with the content of the law as it affect their practice.

According to him, “media practitioners should help to canvass the position of the law and bring needed attention to the severity of the offence and how willful destruction of these facilities impact negatively on the country in all ramifications.

The Cybercrime Act, which was signed into law in May 2015 prescribes a seven-year jail term for offenders of computer-related fraud and other cyber crime activities.
Source: Technology Times 22 February 2016