IT firms blame costly internet cuts on Nairobi Expressway construction

Firms say lack of coordination between State agencies involved in infrastructure projects is to blame for the disruption of fibre optic cables. [File, Standard]

The ongoing construction of the Nairobi Expressway is leading to expensive cuts on fibre optic cables, pushing internet service providers (ISPs) to pass on the costs to consumers.

Telecommunication Service Providers of Kenya (Tespok) Chief Executive Fiona Asonga says construction of the 27-kilometre road running from Mlolongo to Westlands has led to the destruction of fibre optic cables, affecting several ISPs.

"During the construction of the expressway, we have had up to 30 cuts a day on fibre optic cables," she said during the Connected Kenya Summit in Diani, Kwale County, that has brought together ICT industry stakeholders from the government and private sector.

"These become too many for service providers to do the normal fixing since they have to pull out the entire stretches of the fibre cable and do it all again, and it is happening over and over."

Ms Asonga said lack of coordination between State agencies involved in infrastructure projects is to blame for the disruption leading to ISPs charging clients higher for their services.

"We are constantly having to spend more on repairing and fixing what we already have and it becomes a challenge for us to offer universal access, roll out to new areas and offer affordable pricing," she said.

As part of the conditions for the approval of the expressway's construction, the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), said the relocation of utilities including water, sewer lines, fibre cables and power lines should be done with minimum disruption.

"Appropriate authorisation by the service providers (such as) Athi Water Services Board, Kenya Power, Information Communication and Technology Authority, Kenya Pipeline among others shall be sought and adequate notification given to the parties to be affected," Nema said in the Environmental Impact Assessment licence.

In 2020, Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) said it had set aside Sh4.5 billion for the relocation of utilities along the Sh88 billion expressway corridor.

This included Sh1 billion to Kenya Power to relocate 100 kilometres of electricity cables.

Tespok is now calling for a Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill to facilitate coordination of infrastructure deployment between State regulators.

"We got a message on Friday that there was going to be sweeping of the expressway to open it up and the cables have not been put where they are supposed to be, and a permanent solution is not yet ready," said Ms Asonga.

"We've already been warned that by today afternoon, the cables will be pulled out and customers on those networks are going to be in the dark."

Tespok further said awareness by the police and legal system is too low to facilitate prosecution of costly damage to ICT infrastructure.

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