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OPINION: Kenya’s CCK is not as powerful as it thinks it is

The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has for a long time portrayed itself as the ultimate authority when it comes to matters of communication in the East African nation.

However, the reality on the ground is the exact opposite, as the CCK have been on the receiving end of defiance from those it is supposed to regulate, as well as government interference in the way it carries out its mandate.

Kenyans are now used to an all-tough-talking-without-actions CCK, and every time the regulatory body issues new orders in the communication sector, many of these are received with skepticism, with the skeptics almost sure nothing will be done.

The most recent of these ‘tough-orders’ was the unregistered SIM cards switch off, which were supposed to be disconnected on December 31, 2012. However, this never happened, and most mobile users who are yet to register their SIMs continue to enjoy network services.

On Wednesday, CCK came out to blame the mobile services operators for impeding the switch-off by not disconnecting the unregistered users when the deadline elapsed, leaving Kenyans wondering exactly where is CCK’s authority?

CCK went ahead to  threaten – as it is expected to – mobile phone users with a fine of KSh300,000 (US$3,570) or jail terms of up to three years if they fail to register their SIM cards. CCK also warned mobile operators that they will pay the same fine for every unregistered SIM card on their network.

Kenyans still wait with baited breath to see the threats put into action.

The issue on Mobile Termination Rates (MTR) has also been a bone of contention between CCK, the mobile operators and the government. The communications regulator has many times received interference from the Kenyan government when it wanted to review downwards the rates, even the Kenyan president going as far as suspending the slashing of call rates.

Taking a look on the CCK’s website, it is the same government that enacted the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Act 2009, and in the amendment one of CCK’s new responsibilities was “Managing competition in the sector to ensure a level playing ground for all players”.

Review of MTR falls under their responsibility, but when CCK was faced with executing this, they cowed again by postponing the review to ‘avoid clash with the president’.  

However, after what seemed to be an eternity, CCK went ahead to ‘courageously’ cut the MTR, something that was long overdue.

Another example clearly showing that CCK is not the ultimate authority in communication matters in the country is the failed Number Portability initiative that has been marred with counter accusations between the CCK, and the mobile phone operators.

It seems the most used phrases by the Kenya communications regulator are: “We want to warn…” and “we will take legal action against those defying…” that are not followed by action.

CCK can borrow a leaf from their counterparts in Nigeria, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) which is driven by three guiding principles (Fair, Firm and Forthright) in carrying out its duties and functions as the National Telecommunications Regulator in the country.

NCC is known for its strictness and firmness in making good their threats, and has brought sanity in Nigerian communication sector, something that CCK can learn a thing or two from.

Posted in: FeaturedTelecoms

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