Telcos back licensing of Twitter, others

TECH DIGEST – Nigerian telecommunications operators have thrown their weight behind the directive of the Federal Government to register Over-The-Top (OTT) service providers in the country.

They, however, said the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is the appropriate agency to undertake such registration rather than the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) directed to commence the registration by the government.

While not ruling out the conversation around their licensing, they said it is within the ambit of the NCC to issue licences to OTT service providers.

Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo agreed that the licensing of OTT has to happen, but certainly not by NBC but NCC.

“Indeed yes, Over the Top “OTT” is a layer on communication channels provided on telecom services: it’s part of the Quad Play of Broadbands, which refers to Telephony, Television, Internet and other Mobile Services

“It’s part of the convergence of telecommunications and broadcasting and the regulator of the base infrastructure should be responsible for licensing of the players which in this case and in our understanding is the Nigeria Communications Commission.

“It is a conversation that needs to happen but not under the current circumstances of a suspension of Twitter as a service and the directive for licensing arising therefrom,” Adebayo said.

The NBC had directed broadcasting stations to desist from patronising Twitter, a micro blogging social media platform.

Acting Director-General, NBC, Prof Armstrong Idachaba, said the order was pursuant to the suspension of the platform’s operation in the country over its persistent use for activities capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.

“Consequent on the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria by the Federal Government over the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining the corporate existence of Nigeria, the National Broadcasting Commission directs all broadcasting stations in Nigeria to suspend the patronage of Twitter immediately.

“In compliance to the above directive, broadcasting stations are hereby advised to de-install Twitter handles and desist from using Twitter as a source (UGC) of information gathering for news and programmes presentation especially phone-in.

“Section 2(1)r of the NBC Act entrust the Commission with responsibility to ensure strict adherence to the national laws, rules and regulations.’’

“Also, section 3,11.2 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code provides that “the broadcaster shall ensure that law enforcement is upheld at all times in a matter depicting that law and order are socially superior to or more desirable than Crime and Anarchy.

“Attention is also drawn to section 5.6.3 of The Code which requires broadcasters to be mindful of materials that may cause disaffection, incite to panic or rift in the society in the use of a user generated content (UGC).

“Note that it will be unpatriotic for any broadcaster in Nigeria to continue to patronise the suspended Twitter as a source of its information, therefore strict compliance is enjoined.”

The Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) however declined to make public comments on the development.

Its President, Ikechukwu Nnamani, said the association was in conversation with the Federal Government over the development.

“We are currently engaging with the government to resolve the issue, so we are not making public comments on the situation as ATCON for now.” Nnamani said.