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Electronic Communication Amendment Bill 2015 Undergoes Second Reading

Members of Parliament have taken the Electronic Communication Amendment Bill 2015 through its second reading, granting it a safe passage into the consideration stage for the discussion of the proposed amendments.

 

 

The bill is to amend the electronic communication act, 2008 (Act 775) to provide among others, clearing house service through the establishment of an Interconnect Clearinghouse (ICH).

 

The bill, will also address some regulatory, technical and financial challenges related to interconnection in the electronic communication industry.

 

The primary objective of the bill is to ensure cost effectiveness in interconnection, reduce the cost of interconnection and facilitate interconnection for emerging services and application and thereby make service delivery affordable to subscribers.

 

The Minister for Communications, Dr. Edward Omane Boamah, who moved the motion for the second reading of the bill, said the bill when passed would help create additional traffic which would lead to enhanced revenue.

 

Chairman of the Finance Committee, James Klutse Avedzi, moving the motion for the adoption of a report of the Joint Committee on Communication and Finance on the bill, said the memoranda which had reservations about the passage of the bill were not against having an ICH per se but were more about a single Clearinghouse which it believed, may create a regulatory monopoly.

 

He pointed out that interactions revealed that, Nigeria had started with multiple ICHs but has now disabled all of them because of the problems of accountability and shirking of responsibility associated with multiplicity.

 

Mr Avedzi said in the face of those fears expressed, the National Communication Authority (NCA) should be mandated to create more than one ICH, should the need arise.

 

He said telecommunications operators had expressed anxiety about having to immediately do away with the existing peer-to-peer system due to their capital intensive infrastructure, adding that the Committee was of the view that the peer-to-peer should run alongside the ICH for more than a period of six months to enable the industry adjust to the immediate changes and that the diction of the bill must expressly cater for a transition period.

 

Mr Avedzi added that, "individuals and groups engaged in the creation of online sales of software and applications are very happy about the ICH because it will enable them acquire and monitor data on sales and use of their services" as well as, have a fair idea of how much money is due them and what improvements they needed to make.

 

"Mr Speaker, the committee having carefully examined the bill is of the view that, the bill will streamline and rationalize the activities of the various players in the telecommunications industry. The bill will also help in rectifying market failures that have plagued the industry and led to significant losses of revenue to the state over the years," he said.

 

He told the House that the introduction of the clearinghouse system would help address the challenges faced with existing interconnection scheme and take advantage of the opportunities of a centralized redness to the issues of stolen phones, uncertain subscriber identity as well as to facilitate connectivity with other platforms.

 

When fully implemented, the interconnection clearinghouse operators would among other things, provide an efficient billing and payment settlement process with a verifiable call detail record. It is expected to provide a reliable, efficient and scalable network that would lead to the reduction of cases that require mediation by the NCA, Mr Avedzi noted.

 

It is also expected to provide cheaper service delivery to subscribers as well as provide full interoperability of various technologies and classes of service by service providers.

Mr Avedzi said the use of interconnect clearinghouse would also generate much needed revenue for the government and help ensure effective active detection of simbox fraud which has plagued the communication industry.

 

He disclosed that with the establishment of the interconnect clearinghouse, telecom operators in Ghana would no longer depend on international clearinghouses for the settlement of all roaming and international traffic, adding that this would help generate employment.

 

"Mr Speaker, the introduction of ICH would improve third party value added service provision, mobile aggregation and reduce the issue of non-transparent revenue shares agreement which exist between content providers and mobile network operators," he added.

 

Dr. Mark Assibey-Yeboah, MP for New Juaben South in a contribution to the motion raised concerns over revenue generation implications of setting up the ICH.

 

Source: ISD (Gilbert Ankrah and Raymond Kwofie)