NCC suspends order to increase data prices

NCC, yesterday, announced the immediate suspension of the new minimum pricing template for data services by mobile operators in the country.
NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, Tony Ojobo, said the decision to rescind its earlier directive to telecom operators to commence charging the new floor price rate for data from December 1, was to allow for further consultation with industry interest groups.
He said: “Following concerns that visited the directive to introduce price floor for data segment of the telecommunications sector, beginning from December 1, 2016, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, has suspended any further action in that direction.
“The decision to suspend this directive was taken after due consultation with industry stakeholders and the general complaints by consumers across the country.”
Ojobo said the commission had already asked all operators to maintain the status quo until conclusion of study to determine retail prices for broadband and data services in the country.
Prior to the suspension, Nigerians had raised concerns about the impropriety of the decision to hike data tariffs at this time.
Nigerians accused the NCC of insensitivity, considering the high cost of living in the face of the current economic recession in the country.
Social media users expressed fears the government planned to limit citizens’ access to the Internet.
On November 1, the commission, after a consultative meeting on October 19 with all mobile network operators in the country, wrote to them on the need to determine an interim price floor for data services.
In the memo, the telecom sector regulator justified its decision to have a price floor, claiming it was primarily to promote a level playing field for all operators in the industry, encourage small operators and new entrants.
The price floor of N3.11 kobo per megabyte of data in 2014, it recalled, was removed in 2015, pointing out that the price floor that was supposed to flag off on December 1, 2016 was put at 90 kobo per megabyte.
Although the commission said smaller operators, by virtue of their small market share, were exempted from the now suspended price regime, it said the decision on the floor price was to protect the consumers who were at the receiving end.
The commission said the decision was equally to save the smaller operators from predatory services likely to suffocate them and push them out of business into extinction.
“The price floor is not an increase in price, but a regulatory safeguard put in place by the telecommunications regulator to check anti-competitive practices by dominant operators,” Ojobo said.
He denied the regulator had fixed prices for data services, pointing out that “the NCC does not fix prices, but provides regulatory guidelines to protect the consumers, deepen investments and safeguard the industry from imminent collapse.”

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