State seeks to boost uptake of broadband Internet in counties

The government is lobbying counties to offer waivers on way leaves and site acquisition charges levied on telecommunication firms as a means of boosting uptake of broadband Internet while reducing costs.

Information, Communication and Technology secretary Fred Matiang’i said his ministry is in talks with county governments to remove all the fees they charge the telecommunication infrastructure providers.

Dr Matiang’i said the discussions are part of a wider plan that will also see the infrastructure operated by Kenya Pipeline Corporation, Kenya Railways and Kenya Power used to rollout integrated broadband Internet network across the country.

The initiatives are in line with the government’s National Broadband Strategy which, among other things, seeks to reduce the cost of doing business by ensuring that operators share infrastructure.

High access fees charged by county governments have been cited among factors contributing to high operational costs.

Mombasa, for instance, charges Sh100 per metre of cable laid out through its way leaves while Nanyuki town in Laikipia County charges Sh600.
Nairobi, which has attracted most of the investments, charges Sh20 a metre.

“Although the cost of Internet in Kenya is among the lowest in the region, we believe this can still be lowered if the county governments offered waivers on all levies to telecommunication infrastructure providers,” Dr Matiang’i said on Tuesday during the annual Huawei Broadband Conference that is being held in partnership with the Kenya ICT Authority at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi.

Addressing the access and cost challenges, the CS said, will help spur growth and double broadband Internet usage in the country within the next two years.

According to latest statistics by the Communications Authority of Kenya, the number of Internet subscriptions in the country stands at about 20 million, with mobile Internet accounting for 99 per cent of users.

Fibre optic subscriptions hit 93,598 in the year to June up from 69,373 the previous year, while terrestrial wireless data subscription registered 17,721 users. 

The government is keen on increasing access to broadband Internet as it moves to roll out e-government services such as a tele-presence facility that links the Nairobi Court of Appeal to other courts.

Other sectors such as education, health and the Judiciary are also adopting video-conferencing technology to deliver services that are bandwidth-hungry.

Dr Matiang’i also emphasised on the need for sharing telecommunication networks saying this would result in optimal use of existing infrastructure rather than building competing networks.

A Bill that will compel the operators to share their infrastructure is already in the works.