BACKLASH AGAINST INTELSAT PRIVATISATION ON “LIFELINE” OBLIGATIONS BY ITSO AFRICAN MEMBERS

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The restructuring and privatisation of Intelsat has raised concerns among International Telecommunication Satellite Organisation member States (Itso). ITSO African members have accused it of abdicating its responsibilities to its lifeline customers at a recent meeting of ITSO in Washington DC.

Participants were told that the company had failed to honour its public service obligation, which included maintaining global connectivity, serving lifeline connectivity customers and providing non-discriminatory access to the company system among other duties.

Itso director-general Ahmed Toumi told the meeting that the organisation, which supervises Intelsat had lost its legal power to oversee the running of Intelsat after it was privatised. Information and Communications permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo said increased competition had made it necessary for Itso to transfer its space system to Intelsat for it to operate in a commercially viable manner.

Ndemo who headed the Kenyan delegation to the US meeting said the company needed to honour the agreements, especially those affecting the lifeline members among which Kenya is categorised. This is because most States in that category were depending on Kenya for their respective telecommunication services, Ndemo said.

"I feel aggrieved when I see Kenya and other lifeline members paying 40 per cent more for usage. This percentage should be reviewed in line with the initial agreement for provision of international telecommunication services," the PS said. During the meeting, Kenya was chosen to sit in the Itso advisory committee. The team was mandated to seek solutions to the problems affecting the organisation. Ndemo was accompanied to the meeting by Telkom Kenya Managing Director Sammy Kirui.

A Lifeline Connectivity Obligation was provided to countries dependant on the system when Intelsat was privatised. However the complaint smacks of political grandstanding as Telkom Kenya actually has several suppliers of satellite connectivity. Also by 2008, it should be able to buy relatively cheap international fibre from EASSy (see Top Story above).

The Nation