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Deputy Ranking member of Parliaments Select Committee on Communications, Mr Kwaku Kwarteng has accused government of conniving with its cronies posing as some Interconnect Clearing House (ICH) company to make undeserved money from subscribers and users of telecommunications services.
According to the Member of Parliament (MP) for Obuasi West Constituency, the Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (Act 775) requires every telecommunications service provider to interconnect with every other telecommunications service provider.
He explained that it was to ensure that subscribers of one network can communicate easily and seamlessly with subscribers of other networks.
The MP said all telecommunications service providers in Ghana have invested in the necessary infrastructure and complied with their interconnectivity obligations.
Mr Kwarteng noted that interconnectivity between different networks in Ghana is excellent, and as a result, the National Telecommunications Authority, the industry regulator, has, therefore, not had reason to sanction any service provide for failure to interconnect.
“Then out of the blue, government announces that it intends to appoint an ICH operator to connect calls from each network to another at a price to be quoted by the operator.”
“Most disturbingly, government says it would make it mandatory for each telecommunications service provider to subscribe to the commercial interconnect services of the ICH operator,” he said.
According to Mr Kwarteng, the Wireless Applications Services Providers and the Internet Service Providers are wholly Ghanaian-owned operators in the telecommunications industry.
He said they have said earnestly that they have already invested in interconnect arrangements and don't need any ICH.
He noted that at a meeting with the Parliamentary Select Committee on Communications on December 13, 2014, they were clear that if they were compelled to subscribe to the commercial services of this ICH, many of them could go out of business.
“As for the bigger multinational telecommunications companies, their only point is that if government went ahead and imposed this unnecessary ICH, they would have no choice but to pass the consequential cost on to subscribers and users of their services,” he stated.
The MP for Obuasi West Constituency said the first sign that government had wrong motives in introducing this ICH is the unreasonable rush to set it up.
According to him, on November 26, 2014, government published literature about the ICH on the internet claiming it was the beginning of public education and consultation in which they were looking to receive comments and inputs from all Ghanaians.
He said within 10 working days, government claimed it had finished doing the media and public education and had received millions of comments from the general public.
He explained that government further claims that within five working days beginning from November 19, 2014, it reviewed and incorporated into its work the millions of comments.
Mr Kwarteng noted that on November 26, 2014, government invited applications for license to operate the said ICH and the deadline for applications was within just 11 working days.
He said government is now set to announce the chosen ICH operator by Friday, the February 7, 2015.
He charged government to show Ghanaians what form the public education took and in which media the publicity was done.
“Why the rush to set up the ICH as though there was some urgent need for it? Why the strange urgency? This is obviously a naive attempt to quietly smuggle in the ICH,” he added.
Mr Kwarteng noted that, perhaps, the strangest of all government conduct is the attempt to justify the ICH by presenting it as an answer to SIM box fraud, adding that not only is this deceitful, it is also laughable.
He noted that SIM box fraud is the practice of routing international calls through the internet in order to bypass the legitimate route for international calls, saying this is done to avoid taxes.
“There is nothing about an ICH that can check this bypassing, and government knows this. This justification is most deceitful,” he said.
He warned government to back off this Interconnect Clearing House project as it can serve no honest purpose.
“The greed of people in government who seek to pocket illegitimate money should not be permitted to roll back the gains of Ghana's telecommunications industry.
“In the end, this greed will translate into higher call rates and data usage rates for ordinary Ghanaians and Ghanaian businesses,” he said.
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