Sierra Leone’s ISPs complain about Telecom Regulator Bias


Sierra Leone's telecommunications regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) has denied allegation of creating an uneven playing field for ISPs in the country.

Some ISPs had earlier accused NATCOM of allowing telecom operators like Celtel and Comium to operate on licensed frequency bandwidth for their deployment to offer internet services though they are paying the same service fee as ISPs which are operating on the International Scientific Monitoring (ISM) band- a non-licensed frequency. Their claim was that as a result of this oversight, telecom operators subsidize their Internet charges for their users.

Countering this claim, the Executive Secretary of NATCOM, Bash M. Kamara stated that NATCOM was created to provide a level playing field for all operators be it ISP or GSM service provider and would not encourage any form of unfairness.

Kamara told IDG News Service that he would agree with the ISPs if their argument is centered on why GSM operators are offering internet services. "Though we may not want them to do it but can we stop them? GSM operators are just offering this internet as an added service that would entice their users who need the internet.

These ISPs are just scared. But I don't think they should be because when you are a specialist, you should not be scared of a generalist. I think if they are really specialized in internet services, they should be able to outplay these GSM operators. And some of them have proved that." Explaining further, he said these operators are not paying the same fees and cited that GSM operators are paying an amount with a wider margin to that of ISPs.

He said ISPs were begging when NATCOM told them to be paying for their VSATs. He insisted that the ISPs are panicking because some of them are using some technologies such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) illegally which "are not going to be allowed henceforth." Kamara said technology is not static and new developments are coming in almost every six months so ISPs should not think their services can be dynamic.

He reiterated that NATCOM which came into being in 2006 is poised to ensure that service providers comply with what government wants and encourage a good working relationship with each other.

Concord Times