Oppose Nationwide Telecommunications Gateway says Ghanaians 

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Feb.19, Ghana: Telecommunication and ICT industry in Ghana has been one of the sectors that have witnessed progressive growth and development over the years. The sector has contributed significantly to national development through job creation, improved business transactions and direct contribution to national income.

According to a press statement issues by the Media Foundation for West Africa recently, the main factors that have contributed to the success of the telecom and ICT sector have included inclusive policy making, fair competition, a non-repressive environment, and the enforcement of best industry practices in relation to operator obligations and respect for user rights.

However, the statement said that in recent policy decisions and practices being adopted and imposed on the sector by the industry regulator, the National Communications Authority (NCA), have been quite imprudent. In fact, recent actions by the regulator have the potential of not just crippling the industry, but also rolling back the gains made in the sector so far, it said.

The significant concern is the ongoing cloudy, non-consultative and unilateral decision by the NCA and the MOC to introduce a monopolistic Interconnect Clearing House (ICH), which is supposed to serve as the gateway for all telecommunications and online communications in the country, the statement mentioned.

The statement further said, so far, many industry players, civil society groups and individuals have raised legitimate concerns about the usefulness of the proposed ICH and the processes leading to the selection of an entity for the operation of the ICH. At best, the tendering process was murky and public consultation was literally absent. The haste, with which the selection of an entity for the operation of the ICH took place, cannot but deepen doubts about the legitimacy of claims backing the need for the ICH, it said.

The supposed all-purpose nature of the proposed ICH and the fact that it is meant to be a monopolistic entity licensed by the government through NCA raise very alarming concerns. Given its proposed functions, ICH can be used for gross privacy violations through massive surveillance, it stated.

Given the recent stories of massive surveillance by governments elsewhere and the serious implications of such practices on privacy rights, Ghanaians and various groups should be concerned about the ongoing maneuverings by the NCA.

Beyond the concern over the potential to use the proposed ICH for surveillance and other broad online rights violations, there are many other pertinent questions about the proposed ICH that are begging for answers from the NCA.

The statement further said that the NCA itself has touted the seamless interconnection among network operators in Ghana as a major contributor to the growth of the telecom industry in Ghana. Clearly, this can only be attributed to the fact that, as required by law, the telecom operators in the country have invested in their interconnection facility. So if there are no problems with interconnection, why spend national resources to duplicate what already exists and works well?

A major concern from the beginning has been an obvious possibility of additional costs to subscribers. But in order to deal with that big issue, the NCA claims there will be no such additional costs because network operators will not suffer any additional charges for the ICH. If this obviously doubtful claim is assumed to be true, the question is who will then be bearing the costs for the operations of the ICH? Is it public money that will be used to fund the operations of the ICH? And if so, why should people’s taxes be used to pay for something that solves no problem?

The statement added that if indeed the facility to be established is for the good of citizens and the country for that matter, why was the process not subjected to thorough public discussion and solicitation of input from all stakeholders? Why was the process rushed through with practically no publicity?

Under the current peer-to-peer interconnection, system breakdowns may only affect calls from one network to another. However, the proposed nature and mandate of the ICH will mean that it will be the single gateway for all communications in the country. The danger is the possibility of a nationwide breakdown in communication when the ICH encounters technical problems, suffers digital attack, or in the event of a disaster.

The centralized monopolistic communication gateway, as has been proposed, could also be used or manipulated for political persecution and gains, the statement further added.

The Oslo Times

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