Swamped with complaints about the performance of Telkom Kenya, the telecommunications industry regulator seems to be laying down the law at last.  The Communications Commission of Kenya slapped a Sh110 million penalty on the state firm for failing to comply with the conditions of its various trade licences in the 2001/02 period.

It was also reportedly considering seeking court action over a pending Sh58 million in penalties arising from Telkom’s 2000/01 performance. The CCK has also recommended that Telkom be stripped of its monopoly in the provision of long distance fixed line telephony and that a second national operator be licensed. "In view of non-compliance, the commission recommends to the government the need to licence a second national operator to offer effective competition to Telkom so as to improve service delivery.

"If competition is not introduced, the firm’s dismal performance will considerably delay the government’s telecommunication rollout targets as set out in the Sector Policy Statement," says a board paper prepared last month and obtained by BusinessWeek.

The regulator recommends the licensing of a second Internet backbone service provider to compete with it. Already, some two firms ­ Afsat Communications and another fronted by a number of major ISPs called Fast Lane ­ have applied for licensing. Even then, such applications will have to wait for a Gazette notice by Transport and Communications Minister John Michuki overturning Telkom’s monopoly.