Is Nigeria looking to regulate mobile internet usage?
Over-the-top (OTT) services may be an unknown term to the majority of people that use them. OTT refers to services that mobile phone users access without going directly through their service providers. These include social media applications such as Whatsapp and Facebook, as well as live streaming. Telecoms carriers in countries as far apart as India and South Africa have sought to regulate OTT services. In Brazil, WhatsApp was shut down after extensive lobbying by telecom carriers. The latest to join this list is Nigeria.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the body that regulates telecommunications in the country, last month released a report that apparently shows the NCC’s interest in regulating OTT services. According to the report, OTT services pose a danger to the profit margins of telecom carriers. Apparently, traditional telecom firms cannot earn revenue directly when consumers use OTT services. This despite the fact that to access such services in Nigeria, one has to pay the high data costs. The NCC report also raised the need to look at the possibilities of OTT services paying for the use of telecom carriers’ infrastructure.
Naturally, the NCC’s report and its implications raised concerns some Nigerian netizens particularly surrounding net neutrality. Another point of interest was whether the fact that telecoms carriers cannot earn revenue from OTT services should determine any decision to ban or regulate their use. A media website, TechCabal, stated that the onus should be on telecoms carriers to adapt as opposed to trying to keep consumers in “the ice age” to protect profits.
However, it appears that all objections may be for naught. Last week, the NCC appeared to debunk concerns that it was considering or trying to regulate OTT services. The commission announced that it has no plans to regulate them and explained that the now infamous report was simply to start discussion on the topic of OTT services.
Do Nigerians have to worry about the NCC regulating OTT services? Otherwise is this concern misplaced? Let us know by leaving a comment below or reaching me on Twitter @rafeeeeta