|Dr Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information & Communications
The government has warned that it would be forced to step in and regulate internet connectivity charges if the prices will not come down significantly in the next one month.
Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo said on Tuesday at the first East African Fibre Summit hosted by AITEC Africa that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were still making obscene profits from the high cost of bandwidth despite the operationalisation of the fibre optic cables.
“They are being mischievous. We have been talking about $6000 per Megabyte, telling us that they are lowering to $600 which from our calculation their payback would be in less than six months that is not what we want,” he stressed.
It was widely believed that with the coming live of the SEACOM and The East African Marine System (TEAMS) cable, the cost of bandwidth would come down significantly but this has not happened.
The cost of one megabyte of bandwidth locally has been going for between Sh298, 000 and Sh445, 000 ($4000-$6000) until recently when the fibre optic cables landed.
Many ISPs say they have reduced this to Sh45, 000 ($600) but the government wants this lowered to Sh15, 000 ($200).
“We have many options but it’s always good to leave the competition to push the pricing down, but it doesn’t the regulator (Communication Commission of Kenya), would step in,” the PS emphasised.
He said the argument that the providers have increased capacity for the same pricing is not valid since majority of Kenyans cannot access affordable and after internet connectivity.
“That is nonsense. If Kenyans are not able to afford, then I’m not happy because for me to ensure that the economy grows it is to make broadband available to Kenyans. But now it cannot be used, not many people have this in their homes,” he complained.
The providers have been accused of behaving like a cartel but they have defended themselves arguing that they need to recoup their investments which have been dependent expensive satellite links.