ICT ministry wants counties to scrap ISP wayleave charges

ICT and Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The National Government is in discussions with county governments to waive wayleave charges for Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

ICT and Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo said infrastructure developments should be designed to accommodate internet connectivity.

The CS, who spoke during the Conext East Africa Digital Infrastructure Summit held in Nairobi, said ICT infrastructure should be considered critical like other amenities such as water and sewer lines.

"A house design will not be complete in this digital era if there is no provision for fibre connectivity," said the CS.

While insisting on partnerships between the government and the private sector, he said the Kenya Kwanza administration is keen on improving connectivity across the country.

CS Owalo said the ministry is in consultation with the Council of Governors to address the high cost of wayleave charges.

"In cases where there is sharing of infrastructure with several service providers, county governments should be persuaded not to charge for wayleaves more than once," he said.

But Communication Authority(CA) Director in charge of Universal Service Fund Chris Kemei said there is a need for adherence to standards when ISPs are putting up the infrastructure.

For example, he noted, ISPs should be compelled to redo pathways and roads once they install their fibre cables on wayleaves.

He urged county governments to not only look for opportunities to collect revenue from ISPs but instead focus on the accruing benefits of improved connectivity within their jurisdictions.

"That is understandable but sometimes there is a need to balance the objectives of ICT deployment in counties vis a vis what can be extracted from the service providers immediately," he said.

The summit was organised by Tespok and Huawei as the main sponsor. Tespok Chief Executive Officer Fiona Asonga insisted on partnerships among service providers and both levels of government.

"As service providers for startups, we are interdependent on each other in terms of service delivery.," she said.

Huawei Chief Technology Officer Tony Li detailed the investments the firm has made in research and development emphasising the critical role connectivity plays in the economy.

"Technology is the foundation of every entrepreneur," he said.

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