…partners FG on broadband
The United Kingdom has appealed to the remaining states in Nigeria to implement the Right of Way (ROW) harmonisation policy of the Federal Government, which lowers charges for broadband infrastructure deployment. The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, who made the appeal in Lagos, said the reduction of the RoW charges by the remaining states would help the country achieve its broadband target. “We are pleased to say that a number of states have reduced or ended these charges altogether, which is excellent progress, and we would encourage other states to consider doing the same,” she said. Reflecting on its projects in Nigeria, she said that “UK was working with the Nigerian government to promote Nigeria’s digital economy – and drive this growth – primarily through our Digital Access Programme, the UK-Nigeria Tech Hub Network, and the West Africa Research and Innovation Hub. “Through the Digital Access Programme, we are working with the Federal Government, state governments and policymakers on removing systemic barriers to connectivity expansion – for example, the Right of Way charges that make laying broadband more expensive. “We have also worked with the Federal Government to roll-out a five-year national broadband plan that will help expand Nigeria’s broadband connectivity from the current 38 per cent penetration to 75 per cent, by 2025,” she said. Laing, however, noted that the current high RoW charges would continue to be an impediment to the achievement of the broadband target, hence, an appeal to the Nigerian states that are still charging arbitrarily. Over a year after a Federal Government’s agreement with the 36 state governors on harmonisation of Right of Way (RoW) charges at a benchmark rate of N145 per linear metre, 29 states are yet to comply. This is even as the telecom industry stakeholders worry that 5G deployment may not be feasible with current high charges across most of the states. The RoW charges are government levies imposed on telecom companies and internet service providers (ISPs) to lay fiber-optic cables along state roads. While some of the states are currently charging as high as N6,000 per linear metre, the Federal Government’s harmonisation policy enjoins all states to charge a uniform price of N145 per metre to aid the fast rollout of telecoms infrastructure and drive down the cost of internet access in the country. Last year, six states announced compliance with the policy as they slashed their charges to N145, while Kaduna State declared RoW as free for telecom operators. However, as of the time of filing this report, the remaining 29 states are yet to implement the policy. Speaking with our correspondent, the Executive Secretary of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Ajibola Olude, lamented that the reluctance of the remaining 29 states to adhere to the fixed N145 has been slowing down fibre rollout in the country. According to him, Lagos State currently charges over N1000 per linear metre for fibre deployment. “There is even charge disparity between mainland and Island (higher rates). So, the Federal Government should engage more with the states to understand why the N145 cap should be maintained,” he said.